Whilst in Kenya in September, I came across the “Mpesa” way of handling your money. Piloted in Kenya and in use also in Uganda and Tanzania, the locals open up an Mpesa account and deposit money into it at any one of the shacks in the villages and towns displaying the Mpesa logo. It’s all done through their mobile phone (a must in Kenya since the landline phones are very unreliable partly due to the Kenyans’ love of making bracelets with telephone wires!) If you need to pay any bills, take out some cash or transfer money to someone else, then you can do this simply by using your mobile and a password.
Whilst I was climbing Mount Longonot, my guide was trying to transfer a couple of thousand shillings to his mother who was literally waiting at the Mpesa “shack” so she could collect it. Unfortunately, it was not accepting his password and this was causing Joseph a lot of distress as usually Mpesa worked well for him.
Imagine not having a bank account, bank statements, credit card and just using your mobile phone for all your financial transactions! How much more simplified! Obviously if you lose your mobile then you are in a fix but presumably if you know your password this can be got round.
I am told by Kenyan friends that this system will probably get to the UK soon and will be even more sophisticated when it arrives – we will pay for everything with our mobile phone – groceries at the checkout, petrol on the forcourt… I am pleased that Kenya had led the way with this futuristic way of managing money. Perhaps it’s something that gap year travellers should consider when volunteering in Kenya especially when they are a long way from a town???
(Volunteer Vacations has vacancies for teaching assistants/sports coaches for a 12 week term in Kenya – see http://www.volunteervacations.co.uk for more details)