[pullquote]Swiping plastic money is already a thing of the past. The next thing to swipe is a smartphone[/pullquote]
Today M-Pesa is the default money transfer service in Kenya with over 15 million subscribers. Despite the monopolistic market share M-Pesa has, replicating the same in other markets has proven problematic except for Afghanistan where the product has been successful with the military and the police. Tanzania is a promising market but so far M-Pesa has only about 5 million subscribers.
What it means for M-Pesa to go smart is that it should start Internet enabled services through deployment of an M-Pesa app for smartphones. Two layers exist for M-Pesa smartness. The first one is the development of the M-Pesa app for all smartphones that will enable transactions to be carried out, not through the M-Pesa feature as currently is, but through the app’s interface (of course the current feature has to be retained especially for subscribers who do not own a smartphone). An M-Pesa app has the potential to enhance user experience and minimize cases of erroneous transactions. An app will also make it possible for M-Pesa to include numerous other services and functionalities e.g. contacts management, storage of transaction data, enhanced authentication protocols and others that only imagination can limit. The M-Pesa app that exist today, the PesaDroid, that basically facilitates a person’s access to M-Pesa feature in his/her mobile phone, has nice features that offer means for subscribers to be in control of the transactions they make. For instance the app allows one to copy paste contacts from the address book to M-Pesa in addition to accessing M-Pesa statement. Currently M-Pesa allows one to retrieve phone numbers saved in SIM cards yet people save their contacts in the phone’s memory by default
The second layer involves M-Pesa going a step further and incorporating a mobile wallet in its payment ecosystem. Already there is need for accessing products and services from online shopping outlets like Amazon and ebay that ‘do not know’ about M-Pesa. It is for M-Pesa to facilitate easy access to these online services by going smart. For instance I have the need to purchase a number of apps from Google Play Store but I haven’t because I do not want to own another money transfer service. About two years ago I actually wrote to skype to consider accepting M-Pesa as a payment method from Kenyans. I did not get feedback from skype. Paying for skype services could have been easier if M-Pesa had partnered with paypal, for instance. Yes, there are individuals who have tried to come up with ways of accessing paypal via M-Pesa and vice-versa but they have remained doing just that, trying.
Immediate implementation of mobile wallet payment system will give M-Pesa a leading edge against competitors by ensuring that they remain relevant as pioneers. M-Pesa partnered with I&M bank to enable subscribers access money in M-Pesa through debit visa cards. As much as M-Pesa has this product, it should know that swiping plastic money is becoming a thing of the past at a very fast rate. The next thing to swipe is a smartphone; and for those of us who like being intrigued by new technologies, M-Pesa will do us a great favour by letting us swipe our phones as soon as yesterday.
Unless services like M-Pesa become proactive and lead the way in promoting the use of new technologies like NFC which is present in today’s high end smartphones, then we could forever remain in the trend of always lagging behind in adoption of latest technologies. We are yet to fully adopt plastic money when the developed world is already moving away from plastic money to mobile wallets.
M-Pesa has a lot to gain by going smart. Of significant value is retaining absolute advantage in mobile money ecosystem. Secondly, smart payment system will make it smoother for M-Pesa to be introduced in regions that predominantly use smart technologies.