News / Economy

Africa's M-Pesa Mobile Payment Method Debuts in Romania

A Vodafone employee shows M-Pesa's text message transactions option on a mobile phone, in Bucharest, April 2014.
A Vodafone employee shows M-Pesa's text message transactions option on a mobile phone, in Bucharest, April 2014.
Lisa Bryant

In a trend reversal, African technology has migrated to Europe with the launch in Romania of Kenya's popular M-Pesa mobile money transfer system.

Mobile payments have changed the way many Africans -- and the humanitarian community -- do business. It remains to be seen, though, whether it will enjoy the same success in Europe.

Meaning "mobile money" in Swahili, M-Pesa is credited with transforming the lives of millions of Africans who have little or no access to conventional banking services. The concept is simple: M-Pesa customers can receive and send money through their mobile phones using simple text messaging technology.

From its debut in Kenya seven years ago, the mobile phone transfer system has since expanded to half a dozen African countries - including in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Telecommunications company Vodafone, which developed the technology, also has introduced it to India and Fiji. Now Vodafone has set its sights on Europe with the rollout of M-Pesa last month in Romania.

European focus

"We chose Romania because there was, and there is still, a large part of the population which doesn't have a bank account," said Claire Alexandre, who leads M-Pesa's Commercial and Strategy team within the Vodafone group. "Only about 50 percent of the population of Romania has a bank account. And the other half is mostly still using cash."

Alexandre said even Romanians who have bank accounts mostly use them to withdraw their salaries. They then depend on cash transactions for the rest of the month.

That's a habit Vodafone wants to change. The company says it's too early to talk about the number of M-Pesa customers there, but it's clear that Africa -- where mobile phone use has exploded -- offers a lesson for Europe.

"Looking at how people communicate with each other, how they interact with each other, we realized that people talk to each other, but often they need to send or to receive money from each other," said Alexandre. "So we've expanded that further. So if you look at those basic needs, then there are other markets where those needs haven't been met either. And we saw that was actually the case in Romania."

So far, Vodafone hasn't announced any plans to expand elsewhere in Europe. Experts suggest it might be eyeing other markets, though, in eastern and central Europe. Whether M-Pesa will thrive there, as in Africa, remains to be seen.

Along with ordinary people, the humanitarian community also is adopting M-Pesa technology as a handy way to offer cash assistance to needy communities, including refugees and those hit by disasters. There's one constant in all these scenarios. Alexandre said markets seem to like the brand name. So wherever it next travels, M-Pesa will keep its moniker and its Swahili roots.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hello from: Canada
August 15, 2014 2:15 AM
In canada, I can send money by emailing the amount to anyone who has a Canadian bank account. It's $1.50 fee for the sender, no fee for the receiver.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7735
JPY
USD
107.03
GBP
USD
0.6155
CAD
USD
1.1011
INR
USD
60.954

Rates may not be current.