February 17

James Militzer / Kyle Poplin / Scott Anderson

Social Business Roundup: Transaction-Fee Wrangling and a Reason to Pay Attention at Your Next Conference

Good Week for Mobile Money Customers – Bad Week for Safaricom


M-Pesa (Finally) Moves Toward Fee Transparency …

Good news for mobile money customers in Kenya came on two fronts this week. First, after a long, industry-wide delay, market-leader Safaricom began complying with a government directive requiring mobile money providers to disclose transaction fees. M-Pesa customers will now receive a disclosure via SMS after transactions, and will eventually get real-time notification before transactions are confirmed – including on M-Shwari loans and Safaricom’s other financial services.


… Then the Banks Strike Back

Meanwhile, the country’s commercial banks, hoping to capture some of these fees themselves, launched an interbank platform called PesaLink that will let customers send money from one bank to another (instead of withdrawing it to send via mobile money platforms). These transfers can currently be made through mobile/internet banking platforms, ATMs, and bank branches or agents, and will ultimately extend to merchants, government and mobile network operators. Just 12 of the country’s 42 banks have gotten Central Bank approval to roll out PesaLink, but the platform’s organizers, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), expect it to be adopted by the entire industry eventually. And though they insist it’s intended to complement, not compete with, existing mobile money products, KBA is promising to undercut these providers on transaction fees, including by waiving fees on transfers of under Sh500.


The 50 Top Impact Funds

In its continuing quest to move impact investing from niche to mainstream, ImpactAssets just released its 2016 showcase, IA 50, a free, public, searchable database of top impact investing fund managers.

This year’s showcase, the sixth annual, includes funds based in the U.S., Africa, Europe and Latin America and a variety of issue areas such as affordable housing and community development, alternative energy and climate change, education, media and natural resources and conservation.

“Investors who have been watching from the sidelines and waiting for (impact investing) to mature will find no shortage of opportunities,” said Matthew Weatherly White, managing director of The CAPROCK Group.


Tough Choice for Impact Investors

This week brought a tough decision for people interested in impact investing: Go to Mérida, or go to New York. The historic Mexican city was host to the Latin American Impact Investing Forum from the 14th through 16th, while The Economist organized a Feb. 15 NYC conference on “Mainstreaming Purpose-Driven Finance.” (NextBillion was a media partner at the latter event, and we’ll have more coverage soon.) In the meantime, you can follow the conversation at these Twitter feeds – #EconImpact and #FLII2017 – and view videos from The Economist event on their Facebook page.



The MacArthur Foundation is betting someone out there has an idea that will solve a global problem, and has identified eight likely candidates.

Semifinalists in the 100&Change competition, all of whom are still in the running for a $100 million reward, were announced this week: Catholic Relief Services, HarvestPlus, The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP), Human Diagnosis Project, Internet Archive, Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee, and The Carter Center.

Almost 2,000 proposals were submitted. The foundation will narrow the field to five or fewer finalists in September, then announce the winner in December.


It pays to pay attention at trade shows

It’s not hard to believe that a $100 million prize (above) could, conceivably, change the world. But it’s a stretch to place such high hopes in a trade show, right?

Not to Bitange Ndemo.

An associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business, Ndemo writes in  Daily Nation that “many newly industrialised Asian countries exploited trade shows to learn and develop industries by partnering with advanced countries,” and says Africa – specifically Kenya – can leverage expos into an entrepreneurial revolution. His discussion of “activist policymaking” and seeking and finding partners makes you wonder why you didn’t make more attention at that last conference you attended.


Cash Still King

The Wall Street Journal provides an update on India’s demonetization policy enacted in November, which has boosted digital transactions but has put a serious squeeze on digital have-nots in need of cash. “India has under 20 cash machines for every 100,000 adults,” reports Gabriele Parussini, as throngs crowd mostly rural banks in need of cash. The shift to remove large-denomination notes is not just hurting consumers, it’s also hurting vendors who are reliant upon cash-paying customers. Still, there are some – particularly younger – rural entrepreneurs who are seeing an advantage to digital. The Journal is hosting a Facebook Live discussion, “Is India’s Cash Crackdown Hampering Financial Inclusion,” which should be archived for future viewing.



Novel Social Enterprise

“Like probably every social entrepreneur in the world, I have that split where my head is fundamentally private sector and my heart is social sector.” – Kyle Zimmer, founder of First Book, a social enterprise that has distributed millions of books. In the video below as well as in a written Q&A with Knowledge@Wharton, Zimmer chats with Katherine Klein, a management professor and vice dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, about how business savvy and publishing industry knowledge have honed her social enterprise, which has given away more than 160 million books to children in need.


Photo: Speaking of paying attention at conferences, that’s a “SOCAP Designing the Future” image by Forum for Social Innovation Sweden via Flickr


digital payments, financial inclusion, impact investing