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A cashless revolution

Opinion
This year marks the 10th anniversary of M-Pesa, which started in Kenya, and has since paved way for the cashless revolution in Africa.

M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and micro financing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania.

The service has since expanded to Afghanistan, India, Romania and Albania.

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A customer in Kenya conducts a mobile money transfer via M-Pesa. Picture: REUTERS

It allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services easily with a mobile device.

The service allows users to deposit money into an account stored on their cellphones, to send balances using PIN-secured SMS text messages to other users, including sellers of goods and services, and to redeem deposits for regular money.

The users are charged a small fee for sending and withdrawing money using the service.

Read also: Vodacom to cease M-Pesa in SA

M-Pesa customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that include airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents.

M-Pesa has spread quickly, and by 2010 had become the most successful cellphone-based financial service in the developing world. By 2012, a stock of about 17 million M-Pesa accounts had been registered in Kenya.

By June 2016, a total of 7 million M-Pesa accounts had been opened in Tanzania, giving millions of people access to the formal financial system and for reducing crime in an otherwise largely cash-based society.

A lot has happened since then. Now almost every coffee shop has a cashless payment system. We are now beginning to see a move towards a cashless society in Africa. The greatest thing is that Africans are also playing a role in making this move possible.

We are not just importing technology from elsewhere. We are not forcing what works elsewhere and hope that it works in the African continent.

The following are just some of the industry players that are contributing towards cashless society in Africa:

Difference

Katlego Maphai (co-founder: Yoco) and Kobus Ehlers - (co-founder SnapScan). Yoco is making it easier for entrepreneurs to get a payment device to accept payments without cash. This has made a huge difference to people who are starting to have all they need to accept payment without going through the red tape in big banks.

SnapScan, now a Standard Bank product, has permeated various areas that require payments and enabled cashless payments. You can now use the SnapScan technology for paying for coffee, medical bills, parking and even payment for an item found online.

The future of cashless payments in Africa is bright if one considers what Uber is already doing in terms of enabling passengers to call a vehicle, get driven and walk out without any cash exchanging hands.

AmazonGo is another great example which gives us a sense of what the future holds. Currently at the AmazonGo shop buyers can walk in, grab an item and walk out without issuing cash or using a device as a form of payment.

In future, it will be possible for an entire city to be a cashless city. A place where everything you do does not require cash payment. From municipal, shopping, transport, entertainment and education payments. All of these areas of our lives will be cashless.

Some countries are already experimenting with the cashless concept with Sweden leading in this regard.

Through M-Pesa, Africa pioneered the cashless revolution.

There’s nothing stopping the continent from becoming cashless in the next 10 years.

This change will impact a number of areas. One that comes to mind is jobs and another is the true reflection of economic performance as most transactions will be captured.

Jobs for cash handlers will be over and new jobs will be created. We will have a better picture about the economic performance of each country.

The contribution of the informal economy will start reflecting where it should be reflected.

Wesley Diphoko is the founder and chief executive of Kaya Labs, a research and development platform that is dedicated to the development of technology leaders.

BUSINESS REPORT

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