In the epicenter of global m-banking today(Kenya), the M-Banking 2009: Balancing Regulation and Innovation conference in Nairobi was a landmark event–bringing together bankers, telecoms and Central Bankers to hash out the issues and resolve the tensions between them. The protagonist was/is Safaricom’s M-PESA money-transfer-by-mobile phone, which has caught bankers flat-footed.
From hotel porters to members of Parliament, everyone is using M-PESA, to send money home to villages, pay bills and tuition–and store money in their phone. Even in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa with 1 million people living without electicity or sewage, M-PESA is being used by local savings groups to mobilize money. Some groups have used their meager savings to invest on the stock market–in M-PESA.
Organized largely by students at The Fletcher School (Center for Emerging Markets Enterprises) and co-sponsored by the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, with lead support from Kenya’s Equity Bank, the conference provided a forum for the Central Bank of Kenya to address simmering tensions between the banking community and Safaricom, whose M PESA mobile-money transfer system is spreading like wildfire. With more than 6 million M-PESA accounts, more people in Kenya are transferring money by mobile phone than have bank accounts.
High-level Kenyan dignitaries included the Governnor of the National Bank, the Vice President of Kenya, and the Ministers of Finance and Communications. Attendees included the Central Banks of Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda, numerous commerical banks, Safaricom, and interested parties primarily from Africa and Europe, butalso including World Bank’s CGAP and Bankable Frontiers from the U.S. The presentations and debate were high-level and high-spirited.
The week of the conference, Business Daily Africa ran a 12-page spread representing numerous points of view; during and after the conference, local TV and print media ran multiple stories.
More updates to follow…I’m going to predict, there’s something happening here.