At IMTC AFRICA 2017 Pre-Conference Day in Nairobi, Kenya, we decided to do, hand in hand with Safaricom M-PESA, a field trip into the city of Nairobi, to have a hands-on experience on the use of the M-PESA mobile money product. Many of us have for years spoken about M-PESA with no real personal experience on the merits and details of the service.
First of all, at the Hotel, Olivia Etyang from M-PESA gave the group a good summary of the history of Safaricom, the beginnings of M-PESA and the different services that the M-PESA product started developing besides the Person-to-Person transfer, the Agent Cash-in and Cash-out service, the LIPA NA M-PESA merchant payment service, remittances, bill payment and other financial services such as savings, besides the connections to close to 50 banks and other financial institutions.
We divided the participants into eight groups, each one with an M-PESA guide and jumped into 4 buses that had been programmed to go to four different areas of the city selected by Olivia, Rachel and their teams.
My group went to South B, a neighborhood that has a main street with all types of shops and street vendors surrounded by living quarters such as apartment buildings and houses and close by an informal settlement.
First of all we went to an M_PESA Agent to cash out 100 shillings and check the process that it entails, from making sure to catch the 5 digit agent number to input into the easy to use application, confirming the agent name, confirming the amount and waiting seconds for the agent to receive in his cel the M_PESA confirmation. Our guide had to show her ID to receive the funds and a explanation was given on the KYC requirements. Many questions were raised by group members; as money transfer professionals we needed all types of details and our guide was patient and amazed by the many questions we came out with.
For all of us, the sheer number of institutions this particular shop was an agent for, was surprising, as well as the similar way the system works with the other services. The shop was an agent of Airtel, Equity Bank, Family Bank and many more, all of them displaying their agent number and rates in posters that lined up the entrance wall. The rates were different, some of them favoring with cost, either smaller payments or larger payments.
The next stop was a merchant. We went to a hardware store were the shop owner received the group and our guide showed us how the process of buying merchandise works using the LIPA NA M-PESA service, similar in many ways to other M-PESA transfer services, except that in the LIPA NA service, like any credit or debit payment, the exact amount is paid by the customer and the merchant is deducted the small processing fee on his end.
Our guide also showed us that in case she needs to pay a street vendor that doesn’t have the LIPA NA service, she can send him or her the amount of the merchandise bought or the service performed, and add the fee, so the vendor receives the full amount. If the payment is for 300 shillings, she needs to send 327 and the seller in the street receives the 300 shillings while her M-Pesa wallet is deducted the $327.
After these examples we walked in the street and kept on asking questions while group members shared their thoughts and ideas, compared M_PESA to other services and discussed issues related to culture, customer adoption processes, etc. We raised questions on errors, disputes, customer service, and cross-border payments and remittances, either to and from other countries using M-PESA or to and from Money Transfer Operators.
We then boarded the bus and went to a shopping center to have lunch before heading back to the hotel.
We have to thank Safaricom’s team, Olivia & Rachel for this amazing experience and for all the participants that were so engaged and made this IMTC AFRICA field trip experience so successful. Similar filed trips are part of other IMTC conferences. Join us.