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Has mobile money transfer changed the way East Africa sends money?

Mobile money transfer in East Africa

When we think about money transfer being done online, if you are not raised or residing in a technologically advance part of the world then your first thought is worry or distrust. However, the question isn’t about its validity but more of its efficiency. How efficient is mobile money transfer and to what degree can we say its changed sending money online?




As it stands today the concept of sending your money online is pretty much a part of the luxury in our society. It requires a relatively fast, secure and stable internet connection and most importantly the coverage to be able to send your money from any location. What if these requirements were not there? Would it be just as much of a crucial part of society then? In rural parts of East Africa such as Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia this is the case. Internet connectivity, one of the prerequisites of sending money online are not there which made it such a fruitful breeding ground for todays mobile money transfer.


Mobile money transfer was pioneered by Telecoms firm Safaricom in Kenya and gained over 8 million subscribers to date. The idea was simple, to remove the need to carry cash on the street in a poverty driven regions and move it electronically. Because the infrastructure and culture doesn’t use banks the way more developed countries would, they would have had to figure a way to store the money. Safaricom, figured out that they could allow their users to deposit money into their account and text their recipient with the money simply and securely.


Case Study


This form of money transfer is most commonly used by local businesses to facilitate payments from their customers and to pay suppliers. A particular case study is Farhem Mansoon who owns a local superstore in Kenya. Farhem and his brother Abdullah started their family owned superstore and reached much success not because of the quality or the demand of their goods, but solely on the basis that they were able to enable mobile money transfer for shoppers. In a world where famine and homelessness is common, carrying money across town can turn a mother or father into a target.


Maryam Hamse from the northern region of Hargeisa, Somalia who lives in an area controlled by local war lords says “I am able to send money Thousands of Dollars instantly to my business partners in other parts of the country without local mercenaries knowing”.


Farmer Saeed Heeseh who lives in South Somalia, Kismayo said “My family have never understood the idea of money transfer being used on the phone. When I first heard the concept I was astonished. I now use mobile money transfer to send money on a daily basis”.


Since its inception the idea of mobile money transfer has been used and incorporated in different aspect of infrastructure in East Africa. You are now able to pay for your utility bills and commodities. The most frequently used is being able to pay for fuel at the gas station by a simple text to the cashier, who himself will receive a receipt of the transfer.


Money transfer


Until now we have explained its application in everyday life however, the concept of mobile money transfer has always been limited to local recipients. In order for the concept to be brought in on a global scale not only will it have to prove itself as a secure form of transfer on a global standard but also be accepted by banks overseas. Independent telecom institutions in East Africa have catered to their customers on a localised level but much progress yet to be made.


The concept of money transfer is strong in the East African region and is now gained wide familiarity. This has given an opportunity for global organisations and banks to extend their line business in these areas of the world that’s untapped. The confidence that now exists in technology is a great start for residence of East Africa and hopefully that same confidence will be seen in using mobile money transfer for sending money overseas. 

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