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Why doesn’t every Kenyan business have a mobile money account?

Ignacio Mas's picture

M-PESA signs are a common sight all over Kenya. (Credit: Global.finland.fi, Flickr Creative Commons)The most striking thing about mobile money in Kenya is how visible it is: the proliferation of store signage with M-PESA (and, increasingly, other mobile money and banking logos) leaves no one with any doubt that something big is happening in the Kenyan payment space.

It is estimated that four out of five adult Kenyans have access to a mobile money account. This means that most people that any business touches –whether they are consumers, employees, business partners or retail staff— are connected to a real-time electronic payment network. That’s unprecedented in the developing world.

And yet few formal businesses have a dedicated mobile money account to conduct their financial transactions electronically, and among those who have one most do not appear to promote its use by their customers and suppliers particularly aggressively. Cheques remain the preferred payment mode for suppliers, or cash for smaller payments. M-PESA payments might be taken from customers if they insist and M-PESA might be used to pay field staff in exceptional or emergency situations, but then staff’s personal mobile phones are most likely to be used. Few enterprises have any vision about how they can use mobile money to re-engineer how they do operate, taking cash out of their business. The tidal wave of M-PESA is but a mere ripple for most businesses.