What next after the Mobile revolution in Kenya?

Safaricom 1 - Kenya

Mpesa Transaction

[Download Mobile Revolution article  by Wilfred Mworia]

Kenya has recently been acclaimed world over for the mobile revolution that is MPESA. MPESA for those who don’t know is a payment system which allows Kenyans to transfer money instantly to other Kenyans through their mobile phones. This service is offered by Safaricom which is Kenya’s largest Mobile Network with a reach of 17 or so million subscribers. Safaricom is both a privately and publicly owned company with Vodafone a UK based consortium having 60% shares in the company and the Kenyan government and public owning the rest on a 50:50 basis.

Safaricom MPESA advert

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Mpesa on its own transacts about 17 billion shillings monthly and has a market of 6 million users in the country. This will on the surface make MPESA a USD 2.5 billion venture making sending it into the realm of PAYPAL.com which is one of the worlds most prolific virtual money transfer ventures. For this to happen in what is ostensibly a third world nation is what is making the whole world take notice.

World acclaims mpesa Part 1

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

World acclaims mpesa Part 2

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

In fact i posit that MPESA will be on its own a major driver of the economic expansion of the Kenyan economy and best of all it will take a bottom up approach because it will empower the mama mboga (woman grocer) by allowing her to manage her finances efficiently.

In order to bring the MPESA issue into perspective i would like to share some videos of the progress made by various small, medium and large scale enterprises with regards to adoption of this service. However before i do that here are some steps the government and mobile phone players should take to increase the earnings and effectiveness of virtual payment systems such as MPESA and achieve their full potential.

MPESA needs to move from a payment system to a payment gateway: Safaricom should develop MPESA into a platform where other software developers can build applications on top of the platform an thereby increase utility and reach of this technology. The legal foundations are already in place with adoption of the ICT bill late last year. Limits of MPESA have already become apparent.

A good example is the Easy Hisa share trading system developed by Symbiotic Media Consortium and launched recently by Standard Investment Bank which allows for semi automated buying and selling of shares was allowed to sit on top of the MPESA Platform it would allow for fully automated real time trading which would have meant less operational costs for the bank and more control for the end user in this case the trader.

In fact Standard Investment bank could fully outsource the trading aspect of its business to software and concentrate on core activities such as share transfers and management and international banking and trading without having to worry about its own internal risk factors. This would allow for their easy expansion across the East African and International markets because all they would have to do is add new currency codes and open up their access NSE to anyone with a mobile phone or debit card. Nevertheless introduction of EASY HISA is a step in the right direction. Watch launch below.

Standard Investment Bank launches Mobile application

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

The second issue that is crucial is the development of a address system that is based on housing as opposed to postal boxes. This is crucial to support E-Commerce and the delivery of goods and services. If the government succeeded in creating such a postal system then i believe it would increase the G.D.P dramatically because it would open up more markets and reduce strain on transportation and security costs.

It would also open up new industries whereby e-commerce  enterprises such as MamaMikes.com would have incentives to enter the warehousing and distribution industries. Together with Mobile banking such postal systems would mean the expansion of the Kenyan economy within a very short time. Similarly efforts of giving squatters title deeds would also automatically increase earnings because these individuals could access Bank loans as well as other finance sources.

Lastly there has to be support for the country’s budding webprenuers. They are the ones who will innovate and create solutions that utilize these platforms once they exist they are already a few which i have already featured and here are some links and videos. The support so far has come through a number of initaitives being led by Kenya’s top university Strathmore University through its mobile technology seminars and the ICT board and Ministry of Information and Technology led Permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo. However much more needs to be done to encourage these innovators to pool together and acquire required skills to establish viable business ventures that solve local problems.

We at JohnKaranja.com will continue to support these individuals by sourcing funding information and providing start up guides.


Here are some of Kenyan mobile innovations developed lately.

Tulipe.co.ke: Will allow for online management of Mpesa transactions. [Read More]

Whive.mobi: Will allow for social interaction and sharing of information in African languages. [Read More]

Car track mobile application

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Home management system

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Wilfred Mworia has kindly provided some guidelines for mobile application development.



Are you a Webprenuer or do you have a project you would like to tell us about? Post it the comments section and we will get back to you.

  • Paul Mwai

    Yes we need more efforts from government to provide a condusive environment for these young people to suceed. There is so much waste in Africa.

    Kudos John Karanja

  • Pingback: What next after the Mobile revolution in Kenya? | johnkaranja.com | Kenya today()

  • http://wmworia.wordpress.com mworia

    very comprehensive article 🙂

  • http://www.kensoftweb.com steve

    Thats a great piece of article. The sooner us the developers realise that now we need to shift from basic programs to application development the better. Even a site like facebook or twitter or the upcoming Kenyan Vesion (FREELOVEZONE.COM) will be based on that. This is because it gives other developers to make theirs own apps which they can embed on your system hence making it more relevant to more users.


  • http://www.symbiotic.co.ke Mbugua Njihia

    Symbiotic Media developed the messaging and integration of Easy Hisa. Plugins to all major money transfer systems both local and diaspora are going to be in the next release. What he future holds for EasyHisa and our Esplanade platform is real-time direct access even to your bank account.
    You should also correct the caption on the EasyHisa clip that says “Standard Investment Bank launches MPESA application” it is not an Mpesa application.

  • Mugambi

    Good work Mbugua.

  • Jellyfish

    This is an exciting time for Kenya. Innovation is everywhere. Something needs to be done with our patent office to quickly offer this inventions official recognition and then immediately link them with companies for commercialization. Security companies should offer this guy with the mobile security system a contract to commercialize his invention.

  • John Karanja

    Yeah good work done by Symbiotic. @Jellyfish most of this innovations have aready been patented in the west what should happen is workshops for this innovators so that they can create new and differentiated products then patent those internationally with the help of Kenyan Businesses and instituitions.

  • http://www.kachwanya.com kachwanya

    A good point about M-Pesa being developed into Payment Gateway system. The only problem at moment is that the Mpesa API is owned by Vodafon and therefore they are ones to give the permission to when to go public. Until then Safaricom might not have much to say about it. When Michael Joseph was asked recently about it, he said he would consult about it. You can also check the following story: What you don’t know about MPesa: http://technology.cgap.org/2009/07/14/what-you-dont-know-about-m-pesa/

  • Pingback: Virtual Telephone Numbers Introduction - The Blog Planet()

  • http://www.monyamickle.com Martin Muckle

    I do not have bags of money but I do have bags of enthusiasm and ideas. These have compelled me to do what I can for Kenyan ecommerce in the form of http://www.monyamickle.com

    It is a payment processor that allows users to charge their accounts via Safaricom Pay Bill and then spend the credits at various websites (5 currently with 4 more in the pipeline). The restrictions imposed on me by Central Bank have limited the potential somewhat but I offer it as a start and to encourage others to continue looking down the same road.

    There is more than simple technology and financial laws holding back ecommerce in Kenya…there is the massive issue of trust. Are Kenyans ready to part with money for goods or services as yet unseen? It is only with familiarity and increasing usage will Kenyans relax into the multi-billion making industry that is ecommerce.

    At least one of my sites (www.kenyaonlineauction.com) should help people to begin to sell online.

  • nh

    real time trading software already exists so what’s so revolutionary about this? I’ve been able to do this on my phone for years

  • John Karanja

    @nh This is revolutionary in the sense that it is helping get Kenyans out of poverty without neccesarily passing the country through the trauma of an industrial revolution.

  • nh

    There’s nothing revolutionary about this technology, especially because the quotes won’t even be given in real time. They should just have bought the technology that could give them real time quotes from elsewhere.

  • http://babawatoto.com babawatoto

    I Know and believe there is great and unexploited potential in the greater Kenya.
    When Google Opened a Lead Office in Nairobi, it made internet users feel that The Search Company relates to them. 90% of internet users are guaranteed to use google search and its other products.

    It’s advisable that PayPal step out of their comfort zones and go to the grassroots where their wider market will come from. in developing countries there is no competition,

  • http://kenyaninterpreneur perminus

    Use of mobile phones is increasing at a rapid pace,lets not forget the need to also ome up with effective secure applications,as already seen there is a need for tracing identity of phone users through sim card registration but is it enough to curb mobile phone crime?
    Am conducting a research for a term paper on mobile phone securitycould you help me out John with any articles or documents that you might have?

  • John Karanja

    Hi Perminus sorry for replyin this late would encourage you to search the Strathmore University website http://strathmore.edu for these articles. I have seen quite a few there.

  • Pingback: What comes next in the M-Pesa economy? « ThisGlobe.com()

  • Pingback: Putting people first » Various articles on the power of the mobile phone in emerging markets()

  • Pingback: Various articles on the power of the mobile phone in emerging markets « my mcLife()

  • http://www.softkenya.com Kenyans

    To me this is just the beginning and there is more to come. its just a matter of time. http://www.kenya-by-kenyans.com

  • http://gmeltdown.blogspot.com gmeltdown

    I agree partly with the sentiments that some of the products coming up at the moment are not necessarily revolutionary. Some of these services already exist in some form or another in more developed economies. What is revolutionary for sure is the radical shift in perception and trust levels among Kenyans with regard to technology services. The pace at which Kenyans adopted M-PESA as a way of life is a sign of a revolution in itself. The comments made by kachwanya and Jellyfish point to the most important issue at the moment :- Developing and guarding our intellectual property. Consider the issue of M-PESA ownership as argued out on http://bit.ly/5zDqZO

  • fact check

    “Kenya’s top university Strathmore”

    according to which ranking?

  • Pingback: Breaking News: Safaricom moves towards an App Store | johnkaranja.com()