Innovations in Mobile Money

Mobile money services have quickly penetrated markets in the developing world, such as Kenya, India and Brazil, but while customer base expands at break-neck speeds, product range has somewhat stagnated. Basic financial services such as cash deposits, cash withdrawals, money transfer, and airtime purchase were initially offered via mobile banking platforms and customers were quick to realize their utility.

However, surveys show the financial needs of the poor go beyond these services, and the most recent innovation witnessed by the mobile banking world was Kenya’s M-Kesho, which offers microfinance services (micro-savings and micro-loans) through cell phones. Similarly, weather-based micro-insurance is provided to farmers in Kenya. These are all commendable achievements, but branchless banking providers ought to analyze the needs of micro-segments in the society to maximize the utility of financial services to the masses.

A recent article by Mark Pickens at CGAP shares four exciting innovations in this field that deserve our attention:

  • mHealth – Mamakiba is a micro-savings service that helps pregnant women save money to finance the birth of their children.
  • Online sales platform – Cellulant builds inter-bank and inter-MNO platforms that help clients buy various items through their mobile phones.
  • Personal finance – PesaPal is a startup that collects data on electronic transactions to compile credit ratings, assists individuals in basic financial planning and offers supply chain management for small and medium enterprises.
  • Medical smart card – Changamka sells health savings cards that give clients access to basic health services at nearby medical centres. The card can be reloaded through M-Pesa.

All four services are Kenyan, and while they get one excited, the reality is that only one of them has attracted sufficient funding. Without access to adequate capital, mentoring and technology incubators, these useful products may never reach their potential for financial inclusion.

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