M-Pesa: Mobile Payment in Kenya

Lots of problems these days in Kenya, but here’s a bit of a hopeful story: A friend made me aware of M-Pesa a couple of days ago, a new mobile payment system in Kenya. It seems that a a lot of people in this country do not have a banking account due to the high costs. M-Pesa fills the gap with a mobile bank account which is free of charge. Transactions, for which a service fee is charged, are performed via SMS which are sent by a little application which sits on the SIM card. The technology behind it is called SIM Application Toolkit (SAT). As SAT is a 3GPP standard the application can be used with any mobile phone. Money can be sent to M-Pesa  customers and also to non members. Additionally, the application can also be used to top-up somebody else’s prepaid account. According to the M-Pesa entry in the German Wikipedia, the service launched by Safaricom and Vodafone at the beginning of 2007 is already used by 20% of their subscribers.