M-PESA agents and, increasingly, the agents of other mobile money schemes and banks are everywhere. The most striking thing about mobile money in Kenya is how visible it is: the proliferation of store signage leaves no one with any doubt that something big is happening in the Kenyan payment space.
It is estimated that three out of four adult Kenyans have access to a mobile money account. This means that most people that any business touches – whether they are consumers, employees, business partners or retail staff – are connected to a real-time electronic payment network.
And yet few businesses have a dedicated mobile money account for conducting their financial transactions electronically, and among those who have one most do not appear to promote its use by their customers and suppliers particularly aggressively. There appears to be little momentum behind the application of mobile money in business. Most businesses do not feel lifted, shaken or swallowed by the tidal wave of M-PESA.
This is our main finding from over 75 interviews we conducted with businesses of all types in Kenya.4 But that in itself should not have been a surprise. Beyond a few large utility companies and supermarkets, one doesn’t see many businesses post a business M-PESA account number prominently on their store-front, their website, their invoices or their stationery. Why don’t businesses loudly proclaim an M-PESA number that anyone can pay them on?