It just might be impossible to talk about banking services for the underdeveloped world without mentioning M-Pesa.
Launched in 2007 by mobile network operator Safaricom in Kenya, M-Pesa has become one of the leading money transfer — and money storage — vehicles in Africa. Today, there are more than 15 million M-Pesa users, mainly in Kenya, but also in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Fiji and India. From 2011 to 2013 alone, M-Pesa’s user base grew by 36%. The company estimates that $90 billion of funds are transferred through M-Pesa per annum.
But more than the numbers, M-Pesa has morphed into something of brand beacon. For anyone who wants to either build a money transfer platform or provide services to the underdeveloped world, such as in Africa, M-Pesa has become the paradigm, the gold standard, the startup by which all other such startups are mentioned. M-Pesa is literally studied to understand why it worked and how it continues to grow at a steep rate. (Its agent network of more than 334,000 is said to be a great differentiator.)
In short, M-Pesa has become a brand that inspires by wonder and envy. And that makes it cool.
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