Vodafone’s plans to expand its M-Pesa mobile payments service across sub-Saharan Africa are likely to be challenged by a number of other telecoms companies from South Africa, France and India.
However, in an interview with Nick Read who took over as the UK-based company’s chief executive last year, Vodafone believe they have the edge.
“I believe we can turn (M-Pesa) into Africa’s largest unbanked bank,” Mr Read told the UK-based Financial Times newspaper.
“To achieve this we need to explore strategic technology partnerships and work with key financial institutions. I believe there is the opportunity to roll out M-Pesa into other countries where we do not have existing mobile operations when the platform is further developed,” Mr Read added.
According to the report, M-Pesa currently accounts for 3.5 per cent of revenue at Vodacom but is worth around $1.5 billion.
M-Pesa currently operates in seven sub-Saharan African countries including Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Its most important operation is of course Kenya, where two in five Kenyans use it. According to Joshua Oigara, head of the KCB, a partner for Safaricom, M-Pesa currently processes around a quarter of Kenya’s total GDP.
But Vodafone’s plans will not go unchallenged.
The report lists South Africa’s MTN, France’s Orange and India’s Airtel as all having launched rival payments services. There are already around 140 mobile money services across sub-Saharan Africa.
But M-Pesa is the one to beat with a rapidly expanding market and an estimated 10 billion euros ($10.1 billion) worth of transactions processed every month.
The future also seems to involve moving out of the telecoms business alone into fields such as education and healthcare.