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Transferring money from your cell phone; a new service spreads across Kenya

2009.02.12 africanwhale

A very simple and convenient service is becoming very popular in Kenya. This service lets you transfer money by simply sending an SMS to the recipient.

M-PESA (PESA means "money" in Swahili) is a money transfer service jointly launched by Vodafone (UK) and Kenya's leading mobile communications company Safaricom. In a country where many people don't have bank accounts, the service has been extremely popular since its launch in 2007, and the number of people registered for the service has reached approximately 5 million.

There are many ways that the service can be used. For example, Safaricom users who leave their villages to work in the cities can receive payment in cash and then transfer the money to their families back home by sending an SMS once they sign up for the M-PESA service. All the families need to do then to receive the payment is to pay a visit to a Safaricom distributor (found in gas stands and stores). The service is also convenient for paying invoices, and in addition, its low handling charges are pulling more and more people in.

The financial industry in Kenya have raised objections questioning the legality of companies offering money transfer services without banking licenses, but last December the Ministry of Finance in Kenya approved M-PESA as a very secure and safe service. Safaricom's competitor, Zain seems to be planning to start offering a similar money transfer service.

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Kenya (Africa


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