Making Science

M-Pesa celebrates 50m monthly active customers milestone

David Murphy

One of the longest-running mobile money platforms, M-Pesa, is celebrating reaching 50m monthly active customers, cementing its position as Africa’s largest fintech platform.

Launched more than 14 years ago in Kenya, M-Pesa is today available in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Ghana and Egypt. M-Pesa was sold by Vodafone to South African telecoms group Vodacom Group and Kenya’s Safaricom plc in April 2020. Safaricom is 40 per cent owned by Vodafone and 35 per cent by the Kenyan government. Vodacom is 60.5 per cent owned by Vodafone.

The number of active M-Pesa customers has doubled in the past five years. The milestone also comes 18 months after Safaricom and Vodacom launched the M-Pesa Africa joint venture to accelerate growth of the service across the continent. M-Pesa Africa has been delivering digital platforms as part of its focus to be the largest fintech and digital ecosystem across the continent.

M-Pesa became an even more important platform for customers during the pandemic, with transaction volumes increasing 44 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of the current financial year. The number of transactions grew to 4.5 billion in the quarter, with a total transaction value of €63bn (£54.2bn).

“14 years ago, we launched M-Pesa to connect our customers to each other and to different opportunities,” said Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, Managing Director, M-Pesa Africa. “We are delighted to celebrate this remarkable milestone with our more than 50m customers across the continent. As an honour to this achievement, we are reiterating our commitment and deepening our focus on more innovations that will further transform the lives of our customers,”

In 2007, Safaricom and Vodafone launched M-Pesa in Kenya as a way for customers to instantly send money to each other. For many customers, the service became their first and often only access to financial services propelling its fast growth and adoption across the country.

Consequently, the service has largely contributed to the growth of formal financial inclusion across the continent. In Kenya, access to financial services and products has increased by around 56 per cent between 2006-2019 driven by the availability of mobile money. M-Pesa has also been credited with lifting roughly 2 per cent of Kenyan households out of extreme poverty.

Today M-Pesa is a two-sided network that provides a wide variety of financial services to both businesses and individual customers. Customers can send and receive money, make and receive business payments, pay bills, make and receive international money transfers, save and access credit, all from their mobile phones, utilising more than 500,000 M-Pesa agents.

In June 2021, the M-Pesa Super App was launched across all its markets. This introduced one of the service’s key innovations, in the form of mini mobile apps which enable customers and businesses to accomplish day-to-day tasks – from shopping to accessing government services – without having to download different apps for each task.

For businesses, M-Pesa has an open API in use by more than 45,000 developers and 200,000 businesses; the M-Pesa for Business Super App; the Transacting Till that enables businesses to go beyond receiving payments to making business payments; and Pochi La Biashara; which enables small businesses to separate their personal and business funds. Collectively, more than 500,000 businesses transact more than €5.8bn every month on M-Pesa.

The platforms has also been investing in new technologies and partnerships as it seeks to deepen financial health amongst its customers through products that encourage savings and lending, wealth management, and insurance. M-Pesa has equally expanded its partnerships in an aim to boost remittances which empower customers to send and receive money across more than 200 countries and territories.