M-PESA’s back: Vodacom relaunches mobile money in South Africa
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Vodacom has announced that it is relaunching its M-PESA mobile money payments system today, with a new look design for South Africans.
M-PESA originally launched in Kenya in 2007, as a simple mechanism for transferring cash amounts between phone owners via SMS. Customers bought a PIN number from participating agents which they could SMS to anyone else in the country, who could then redeem that voucher for the face amount – less a handling fee – at any M-PESA agent. It found a huge audience as a mechanism for transferring cash from city workers to their rural families, and is now used by 70% of the Kenyan population.
Today’s M-PESA is vastly more sophisticated but still simple to use. 70% ofSafaricom (Vodacom’s sister company) mobile customers in Kenya use it, and it is used for paying social grants and government workers as well as at retail points of sale. In Tanzania, it was recently reckoned that more than 50% of GDP is now accounted for in mobile money transactions, of which M-PESA commands the lions’ share. According to Vodacom, that’s 51 million transactions worth more than a billion US dollars a month.
In South Africa, however, the story has so far been far less of a success for Vodacom. Initially launched in 2010 the system was suspended earlier in the year due to lack of interest among customers. Today’s new improved M-PESA has been redesigned from scratch, says Vodacom’s Herman Singh, and is backed by a Bidvest, rather than Vodacom’s previous partner Nedbank.