Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kenya's mobile revolution and the promise of mobile savings

Kenya has undergone a remarkable information and communications technology (ICT) revolution. At the close of the 1990s, less than 3 percent of Kenyan households owned a telephone, and fewer than 1 in 1,000 Kenyan adults had mobile phone service. By the end of 2011, 93 percent of Kenyan households owned a mobile phone.

A unique facet of the ICT phenomenon in Kenya has been the widespread proliferation of mobile money. Starting with the M-PESA system launched by Safaricom in 2007 and later joined by other systems, mobile money has become a fixture in the lives of Kenyans, extending a basic form of financial access to a wide population.

Mobile money platforms have evolved since inception and have entered a new phase with the advent of bank-integrated mobile savings products. The first such product, M-KESHO, was launched in March 2010 as a partnership between Safaricom and Equity Bank.

In this paper we examine the mobile savings phenomenon, using data collected in a survey during October and November of 2010. The concept of ―savings on mobile platforms is not well defined, and we begin by putting forward a classification of the existing innovations. We differentiate between ―basic mobile savings‖ and ―bank-integrated mobile savings. Basic mobile savings refers to the simple storage of credit using a mobile system such as M-PESA. Bank-integrated mobile savings refers to systems which include a fuller set of banking services such as interest payments on deposits or overdraft facilities. This is the first study that examines patterns of use of bank-integrated mobile savings in Kenya.

The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 presents findings on the overall prevalence of mobile phone and mobile money usage in Kenya based on the Afrobarometer survey conducted at the end of 2011. Section 3 reviews the existing literature on the broader mobile money phenomenon. Section 4 describes how mobile money works in Kenya and shows the growth of mobile money usage over time. Section 5 describes the data on mobile savings analyzed in this paper. Section 6 describes the concept and measurement of mobile savings. Section 7 presents
the core analysis. Section 8 discusses the future of mobile savings and concludes.

World Bank. Author:Demombynes, Gabriel; Thegeya,Aaron.Document Date: 2012/03/01. Document Type: Policy Research Working Paper. Report Number: WPS5988

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