M-Pesa is The Very Boring Tip of a Very Big Iceberg

Campaign for Boring Development

Celebrating the success of M-Pesa , Safaricom’s cel-phone based payments platform from Kenya, is the stuff of development cliché by now. Less often noted is the odd fact that similar services, though they’ve been introduced in most African markets, have failed to take off in anything like the way M-Pesa did back home.

What the iPhone did to stupid time-wasting games, M-Pesa can do to all kinds of financial services in Africa.

This McKinsey analysis shows revenue for mobile operators from phone-based payments could nearly double in Africa just by bringing other countries’ mobile payment penetration to the level of Kenya’s.

The potential is obvious. “54 percent of adults in sub-Saharan Africa make one or more long-distance payments in a given month,” the report says, citing a Gallup survey. We’re talking three-quarters of a TRillion dollars being remitted around the continent each year, 60% of it in cash. (And people…

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