How M-PESA is fueling e-commerce and the gig economy

More and more Kenyans are able to access global e-commerce platforms, thanks to M-PESA Global which has struck partnerships with over 28 international money transfer firms.

25 Nov 2020 . 1,782 Views

Years ago, the process of receiving money from a friend or relative in the diaspora was quite a task.

It would start, like many money transfers start, with a phone call between the sender and the recipient.

The sender would then send a code which the receiver would need to present to the teller at the local branch of the bank through which the money was being sent, fill in a bunch of forms and there would then likely be an argument about the order of names.

That is gradually changing and now, international money transfer is evolving and has gone beyond the remittances from relatives in the diaspora to facilitating e-commerce.

This evolution has partly been enabled by Safaricom’s multiple partnerships with a variety of firms behind the platforms through which international money transfers are handled, shepherded through M-PESA Global Services.

Now, it is also a lot more convenient to transact internationally. Those sending or receiving money or making payments need not visit banking halls; they can transact on their mobile phones.

“This global reach runs on partnerships that have enabled us to cover over 170 countries. Today, it is possible to send money easily, securely and conveniently from the M-PESA wallet to mobile money wallets in the East African region, send money to over 500,000 Western Union locations, send money to bank accounts in over 67 countries and receive money from anywhere in the world. It also enables customers to access the global marketplace,” says Olivia Etyang, the Product Manager for M-PESA Global.

It all started in 2008 when the firm partnered with Western Union to enable inbound remittance from other countries. Over time, the firm has struck partnerships with over 28 international money transfer firms, including MoneyGram, WorldRemit, Sendwave and Mama Money. Today, M-PESA Global handles over 60 per cent of diaspora remittances sent into the country from the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

M-PESA Global has also partnered with hubs, such as HomeSend, Thunes and MFS Africa to facilitate smooth operations in cross-border payments.

“We are seeing more and more Kenyans needing to access the global marketplace to buy and sell goods and services. We have been able to facilitate this through the PayPal partnerships where freelancers mostly get paid while Kenyans can buy from global e-commerce platforms such as Ali Express,” Olivia says. This has been aided by PayPal’s over 100 million merchants across the world.

M-PESA Global Services is accessible from the Safaricom app under the M-PESA service to send and receive money from a mobile number, to a bank account, any Western Union location and to access PayPal top-up and withdrawal. A joint website with PayPal enables M-PESA customers to link their numbers to their PayPal accounts, enabling them to access the ecosystems for top-up and withdrawal. Through the recently launched USSD *334# customers can also access the services.

“Our aim is to ensure that M-PESA customers can access all global e-commerce platforms and merchants to sell and purchase. We want to enable the growth of e-commerce,” she adds.


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