What is M-Pesa?
M-Pesa means “m-money” in Swahili and is the global brand for Vodafone’s Mobile Money service. The service was launched in 2007 in Kenya, 2008 in Tanzania and is now present in 10 countries.
Mobile money is a digital representation of cash which Vodafone stores safely in a ring-fenced bank account (a “trust” account). The mobile money account of each customer is linked to their mobile phone account. The central platform securely keeps tracks of the value in case a phone or SIM card is lost.
No, M-Pesa is specifically designed to benefit customers who have no access to banks - either because they do not have a bank account or because they live too far away from a bank branch. Each transaction is made with a mobile handset, enabling our customers to send money from any location.
M-Pesa offers a safe, fast and low-cost way to pay, receive, transfer and store money. M-Pesa, works in real time and digitally, making it faster and cheaper than traditional informal money transfer services (e.g. sending money on a bus) and safer since every transaction is protected and signed with a PIN.
How does it work?
They need to be a Vodafone customer in one of Vodafone’s M-Pesa markets
Second, they need to open an account with an M-Pesa agent as an M-Pesa customer. After providing ID and completing any other registration requirements that may apply in their country (e.g. proof of address), they create a 4-digit PIN that must be kept safe at all times.
They are then ready to convert cash into digital money with the help of an M-Pesa agent, who will send part of his/her own mobile money to their phone account in exchange for the amount of cash provided.
M-Pesa customers can access a wide range of services, 24h a day, 365 days a year. These services save time and money and are delivered in real time. For example an M-Pesa customer can undertake some or all of the following transactions, depending on the country in which they are registered
- Send money to another M-Pesa customer
- Pay bills (e.g. telephone, electricity, water, TV…)
- Top up airtime
- Pay for goods with merchants and other providers
- Withdraw money at an ATM
- Receive money from abroad
- Receive or pay salaries safely
Tariffs vary per country but all use a pay-as you go model, ensuring that customers are only charged for the actions that they complete. There is no additional charge for any of the SMSs automatically sent or received to facilitate M-Pesa services.. The tariffs can be found on each M-Pesa country’s website
How is the M-Pesa system monitored and regulated?
M-Pesa is regulated by the financial services regulator (usually the Central Bank) of each country in which it is offered. Each transaction made with M-Pesa is electronic and can therefore be monitored by Vodafone, which runs its own bank-grade anti-money laundering system.
If a customer loses his/her phone or SIM card, the funds in his/her M-Pesa account remain secure, and cannot be accessed without the secret PIN code. M-Pesa will restore these funds after providing a new SIM card and resetting the mobile phone account.
Who are the M-Pesa agents?
M-Pesa agents are recruited by Vodafone after a thorough selection and due diligence process. They are regularly monitored and re-trained, and Vodafone representatives visit them frequently.
M-Pesa agents pre-buy mobile money so that they can sell it to customers in exchange for cash (so the customer can “cash-in”); they also do the reverse, selling cash in exchange for mobile money (so the customer can “cash out”). The cash and M-Pesa balances that agents manage and store are always their own.