The impact that Safaricom has had on Kenyans is beyond any impression that a teenager could ever have in a family. And yet, at only 17, Safaricom stands shoulder to shoulder with age-old corporate giants that are redefining investor conversation.
Which is why Safaricom is taking part in an initiative by Brand Kenya dubbed Why the Future is Kenya. The campaign seeks to position the country as a competitive, vibrant and growing gateway to the region and the continent.
“We’ve been around for seventeen years and are deeply Kenyan. I’m actually one of the very few non-Kenyans in the company. We understand Kenya from the village to the city and that is demonstrated in our products,” says Bob Collymore CEO, Safaricom. “About 75 per cent of the population has access to a mobile phone and if you take M-PESA, we are making about 10 million transactions a day, moving about $10 million a day.”
Other companies participating in the campaign are Coca-Cola, Barclays, Simba Corp, Oracle, Google, Simba Colt, GM, Villa Rosa Kempinski, Two Rivers, Pserian, LC Waikiki, Gearbox, Carrefour and Pezesha.
A bright future for the nation, says Collymore, is dependent on a society that is vibrant in health and education.
“We believe for a company like ours to succeed, we should have a healthy and an educated society; which is why we set up the M-PESA Foundation Academy which will cater for over 1,000 economically disadvantaged but bright girls and boys,” said Collymore. “It is important for us to be producing future leaders of the country.”
The academy offers the young scholars an opportunity to learn in a tech-oriented environment and their lives shaped in different spheres of life from entrepreneurship, to academics, thought-leadership, music and the arts.
As part of building Kenya’s future cash-lite economy is the hugely popular Lipa Na M-PESA, which powers mobile payments from small businesses.
“In recognition of the importance of SMEs in the economy, Safaricom has embarked on a journey to digitise small and medium enterprises through Lipa na M-PESA,” says Rita Okuthe, Safaricom Enterprise Business Director. “Out of the 1.7 million small enterprises in Kenya, Safaricom has digitised 99 per cent of the businesses, enabling the owners to track their payment records.”
To power a future where women also play a central role in building the country, Safaricom has initiated Women in Technology programme to provide a platform where women can share a wider range of support initiatives and resources to advance their careers to the next level.
“Technology is one area where women are slightly under-indexed in terms of actually doing the technical job. So, we have a program for women in technology that works right in the ecosystem,” Ms Okuthe noted.
A recent report by Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the social impact of Kenyan mobile-money services found that M-PESA has played a significant role in lifting about 180,000 women from extreme poverty.
“We firmly believe that our technology is only good if it can play a role in lifting the society in which we serve,” said Collymore.