On my visit to Kenya in April of this year, I was really impressed at the mobile banking services. They use a mobile banking system called Mpesa, Pesa means money in swahili and the M stands for mobile therefore translated as mobile money. It is a free service and is very technology friendly, it uses a simple text interface initiated by a free text service number e.g. *130*7372#. There are several options available to the user,
1. Send money
3. Buy Airtime
4. Pay bill
5. ATM witdrawal
6. My account
Right now I will not delve into the sub-menus of these available options. Mpesa allows a user to send money to any person that has a cellphone, when you choose the command "Send Money", you have to input the receivers cellphone number and the amount you wish to send, when the user receives the sms, he/ she recieves a voucher number that must used at an accredited Mpesa atm, in South Africa's case this can be done at Nedbank ATM. A really amazing service that is primarily aimed at making banking accessible in rural areas, particularly because you dont need to have a fancy phone as this service uses no software application and has no interface, it is completely text based.
THE REGISTRATION PROCESS
I registered yesterday with some difficulty, firstly you cannot register at any Vodacom for this service because the Voda shop must be an accredited Mpesa outlet, the four stores that i visited, Eastgate Vodashop, Killarney Vodashop, Northgate Vodashop and Standard bank Superblock all either never hear of this service and did not register as an accredited outlet because it is an additional overhead that customers are not responding to making it a risk where store owners can potentially lose money. With that said, I eventually registered at Nedbank Northgate, I was told by enquiries to go to counter 1, the lady at counter 1 an Indian lady completing some admin as i stood and watched her for about a minute, instructed me that I have to fill an Mpesa application form that i can find at the desk where the deposit slips are, the application form is extensive but doesn't ask you for any personal banking details of any kind, on completion of filling this form out, I handed the application to her during which time she disappeared from her place for 8 minutes to process my application. The entire process took approximately 15 minutes to register, i received a password to activate my account and I was up and running almost immediatly.
I am very excited about Mpesa and hope that it can be used in the same way it is used in Kenya, MPesa started there in May 2007 and in May 2009 had already 6.5 million of the 39 million population users on the network, almost every store is mpesa accredited there. Currently in South Africa, i know of 3 mobile banking service providers this excluding the big banks, the mobile operators are Pocit [http://www.pocit.co.za], mpesa and wizzit [http://www.wizzit.co.za/] all with the same intention of making banking more accesible to the broader public.
so if i want to send a R100-00 rand, it is a very cumbersome process if i want to do it through pocit, My beneficiary has to phone pocit and register with them, give them their bank account details, identity number and name, pocit seems more convenient though because it uses my personal bank details and acts as a bridge by connecting to my account and sending cash to the benficiary without me having to deposit money into any pocit account.Mpesa doesn't require you to register your benificiaries bank account details with them, but requires that I withdraw the R100-00 go to an approved Mpesa outlet or Nedbank and send the money from there.
In kenya almost every store is an mpesa outlet, because store owners there have recognised that its an opportunity for money to flow through their business if they give customers this accesibility, every store acts like a bankand the consumers their respond to and support this service,It is very empowering to know that you can walk into a store and not have any physical cash on you and that you can transact with your cellphone, client walks into store buys a small tv, shop is a accredited Mpesa outlet, client does an mpesa payment, no need to add benficiary, just type in store owners cellphone number, store owner validates clients payment on the spot, on receipt of Mpesa voucher, the whole transactions takes less then 2 minutes.
In South Africa however we initiate the service and wait for client feedback, not offering the service with its fullest capabilities because it costs to enlist service providers, i.e. store owners who have to pay high fees to become accredited outlets, that wont recoup their money and therefore see it as a big risk, clients response will be like mine, its easier to just open an account with capitec, where the transaction fees are lower, people will respond to this because they are the cheapest bank with the lowest fees, sure they dont have proper internet banking facilities yet,For now mpesa is pig backing on Nedbank so if you look for Mpesa outlet locaters it takes you to Nedbank branch locaters which doesn't address the accesbility argument of this services, because, there are very few Nnedbank branchs in rural areas, so people from there still have to spend money and go to the bank, it makes no sense because people can just open a bank account then.
Mpesa is a new service in South Africa, given time I think the service levels will develop and more people will enlist for this service, but right now if Vodacom and Nedbank don't make any attempt in addressing the accessibilty issues, this service will fail .