As you might expect, almost every technological development starts in developed countries. Almost. Because one of the latest developments, mobile micropayments, is unheard of in the United States and Europe but is already up and running in developing countries like Kenia and India.
In Kenia, for instance, the mobile micropayment service M-Pesa launched in February. M-Pesa allows workers in the capital of Nairobi to transfer small amounts of money to their rural relatives, using their mobile phone. It’s a simple service based on text messaging, the only things needed are a PIN and a national ID number for identification. The receiver can collect the money at any small shop or petrol station nearby that acts as an M-Pesa agent (there are already hundreds around the country). A home address or a banking account is not necessary, which is probably the biggest advantage, because many Africans lack both.
Evidently, that is why mobile micropayments aren’t very popular in the US or Europe. Americans and Europeans both have home addresses and banking accounts, on top of that there is a large concentration of banks in the US and EU-countries, which makes micropayments somewhat redundant. Tim Jones, principal of innovation consultancy Innovaro in London says: “It’s unlikely that such a service would have taken off in Europe or the United States, where banking alternatives are already in place. But combine a rarity of banking services with the growing prevalence of cell phones and, much to the surprise of those focused only on developed markets, Africa is leap-frogging ahead of Europe in the area of micropayments”.
Meanwhile, the worldwide GSM Association and Mastercard partnered to develop an identical service in India. And Western Union, the dominant player in global remittances, is developing a micropayment service for Latin Americans to transfer money to their home country relatives. Mobile micropayment services skip banking services, which makes money transferring much more accessible for people in developing countries with few banking facilities. It makes banking easier, it stimulates low-income people to manage their funds in a more efficient way without having to open a banking account. Micropaying is helping them to put a safety net under their family, it gives them the ability to build a stable income. Eventually they might be able to start their own business and even grow their income. Mobile micropayment services overcome the problem of few banking facilities and gives underdeveloped countries the possibility to strengthen their economy.
An interesting question is: When will charity organizations jump in? Wouldn’t it be great if we could send money through our mobile phone directly to our fellow African entrepreneurs that just have the disadvantage of operating in a tough economy? We could personally stimulate them to succeed! Not just by sending money, we could call them, text them like we do with any other friend or colleague. What could be more satisfying than personally helping someone in need, without an organization or person in between? It’s the ultimate altruistic dream.
This is a guest post by mobile marketeer Peter Evers