African economy has the chance to strengthen from a domestic point of view and it could do it aiming to three main intervention areas: technology – which is already giving good solutions in lots of sectors -, agriculture – mostly underused – and China’s economic support – maybe the only one which can suggest a new development model, more trustful than traditionally western random helps.
There is one African story travelling around the world which is told by Africans with a kind of proud: we are talking about Mpesa, a Kenyan phenomenon which has become the benchmark for African good high-tech practices.
When landing in Nairobi, lots of travellers go to the main phone companies’ kiosks: Safaricom, Airtel and Orange. They buy a Kenyan sim card, set Airtime to use the Internet on their smartphones and enter the “bank” through their phones: they charge some money on their digital wallets and are ready to deal autonomously with every single operation.
All happens by phone, thanks to an app invented by Safaricom: Mpesa, where “M” stands for “mobile” and “pesa” means “money” in Kiswahili. The app was created in 2007 and now allows everybody owning a mobile phone to pay for a taxi, their children’s school, a coffee or the shopping, just clicking on a key. You can also lend money to somebody living very far, just entering one of the thousands of kiosks in the country.
Data don’t lie: in 2014 transfers in Kenya moved 26 million dollars. 18 million Kenyans enter Mpesa kiosks, which employ 80,000 people.
Safaricom made it in offering a practical solution to practical and important problems: dangerous money transfers, bank’s expensive costs, buying things by street vendors, which Kenya is full of.
This app is spreading out: even in the furthest villages, every African owns a mobile phone charged with a solar battery, daily expenses are often cheap and not all Kenyans can use the bank as a payment instrument.
Today Mpesa is international and is used by 50 million people in more than 10 African countries.