I am still so proud of the team that I worked with on M-PESA, sadly nobody mentions them thats why I keep honouring them …Susie Lonie..the perfect mobile money project Manager, Lesley Ann Vaughan, Tim Murdoch, Andrew Measures, Chris bowley, Steve woolfries..and Papa M-PESA Nick Hughes. Things were so structured and Kenya offered them the right atmosphere …Safaricom supported us during this time.
From way back in 2005 when I visited a pilot Agent in Thika Town a few Kilometers from Nairobi City, I instantly knew the power of that person. The Agent. When Faulu clients on M-PESA pilot back then recieved their loans on their mobile phones, the only place they could cash it out was at Superiorfones Thika.. Virtual Mobiles next door were not a passionate as Superiorfone. A lot has happened since those Thika days. Agency business changed from begging business people to become agents to the Business people begging us to become agents. Now allow me to jump to the state we are today in Kenya.
An agent who started with 100, 0000 Kenya Shillings in 2007 probably has made a few more shillings from commissions. Safaricom is no longer advertising “Tuma pesa kwa simu” they are now having a whole lot of Utility payments and merchant payments. All these payments point to one person “the Agent”. A lot of conferences have been done, A lot of grants have been issued, I have not heard any that targets the agents. Agents are currently the sole suppliers of electronic value in the whole of Kenya. I still call them “My Agents”. My M-PESA Agents face animosity from the business they serve. It takes ages to unlock their passwords, It takes ages to relocate their tills from one point to another, Nobody bothers to know why they dont have float..even the same safaricom that has burdened them with a whole lot of liquidity requirements. Safaricom is just happy to advertise “lipa karo na M-PESA” ” pay for goods with M-PESA” Pay for movie tickets with M-PESA. Safaricom, your business has grown… stop and ask yourselves where this M-PESA you are telling people to pay Kenya Airways, Kenya Power, Nairobi Water, School fees, Insurance etc is going to come from.. Is it the same agent who was walking a tight rope trying to supply electronic value to your 2million M-PESA customers that is going to walk tighter to supply 15 million with electronic value to enable your services to be used. I am not impressed by Safaricom.. because instead of looking at areas or partnerships that can help fund the electronic value for Agents and thus move their business further…they threaten them with closure, Never answer their calls, they are a desperate lot now. having to move around the same 100,000 Shillings by running from shop to super agent and losing all commission on the way!
Safaricom lets look at the reason why, the solutions are many..but I dont think it is right to threaten agents, close their shops. Instead, lets look for ways to manage liquidity and get Agents funded.
Agents are the only reason M-PESA is successful. Never forget that. Be Kind to them
I am and will always be an evangelist for financial Inclusion through creation of sustainable Agency Networks