Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom has announced an agreement with global money transfer firm Western Union to introduce international mobile remittance services to the 13.5 million users of its M-PESA mobile banking system. Under the terms of the agreement Western Union customers will be able to visit one of 80,000 Western Union Agent locations in 45 countries across the world, and send funds directly to the ‘mobile wallets’ of M-PESA subscribers. Funds are usually delivered within a matter of minutes.
The M-PESA service, which was launched in March 2007, was available in over 24,000 agent outlets as at 31 October 2010; over 600 organisations now accept bill payment via M-PESA. The service does not require users to have a bank account, and has proven hugely successful in Kenya, where millions of citizens do not rely on traditional banking methods. M-PESA users can hold up to KES100,000 (USD1,193) in their M-PESA account at any one time, and funds worth between KES50 and KES70,000 can be deposited, sent or withdrawn during any given transaction. According to the Central Bank of Kenya, Kenyans living outside of their home country sent USD642 million home in 2010 – up from the USD609 million sent back in 2009.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore commented: ‘Our customers are very proud of the revolutionary M-PESA service, and this partnership sees us pushing new boundaries to continue to keep Kenya at the forefront of the mobile world. Through this partnership, our customers and their friends and families will benefit from affordable, faster and more convenient international remittances, and the money is available to use straight away for any M-PESA transaction, or can be withdrawn as cash at any of our 24,000 Safaricom agents’.