Has Safaricom M-Pesa surpassed Google & Netflix?
It is obvious that, even after the demise of Bob Collymore (former CEO), Safaricom M-Pesa is still soaring high. Especially, now that Safaricom M-Pesa ranks as the 9th most influential project in the world.
Not to mention, the passing on of the longest-serving former Safaricom CEO was a blow to many if not all Kenyans. After all, following a courageous battle with a rare kind of Leukemia (Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
As of October 2019, the Project Management Institute (PMI) ranked Safaricom M-Pesa as the 9th most influential project in the world over the last 50 years.
What is M-Pesa?
By definition, M-Pesa is a mobile banking service that allows users to store and transfer money through their mobile phones.
Equally important, M-Pesa was originally introduced in Kenya as an alternative way for the unbanked population of the country to have access to financial services.
Safaricom, the largest mobile phone operator in Kenya as of 2016, launched M-Pesa services in 2007. Important to realize, M-Pesa is a blend of two entities where M means mobile and Pesa means payment in the Swahili language.
In other words, M-Pesa is one of the innovative tools that have been birthed from the collaboration of the telecommunications and banking sectors in East Africa. To date, it is being utilized in 10 countries, including India and Romania.
This cross-communication tactic is developing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa. Where the telecommunication and banking sectors are working together to create mobile banking services for the underbanked.
Apart from Safaricom M-Pesa, who else ranked?
When we dream about the future, the possibilities are endless. With this in mind, therefore, apart from Safaricom M-Pesa, allow me to first review some of the top 5 influential projects.
Whereby, in commemoration of the PMI 50th Anniversary, the institute identified the most influential projects of the last 50 years.
Below is the reviewed countdown of the top 5 most influential projects.
1. World Wide Web
Listed as number one for connecting everyone—and everything. Not to mention, three decades later, it’s hard to imagine life without the web.
Yet not even Berners Lee could have anticipated all of the amazing, alarming, absurd things the World Wide Web brought to life.
As an example of our free will sampling:
Cat Videos: Take your pick: Japan’s scene-stealing Maru, the aptly named Grumpy Cat, the acrobatic shelter stray, the 8-bit Pop Tart-clad Nyan Cat. They all proved to be internet catnip, racking up likes and shares.
“Gangnam Style”: With more than 3.4 billion YouTube views, Psy’s 2012 music video became the first to surpass 1 billion views. Even with lyrics in Korean, people around the world were soon singing along—and mimicking the dance moves. Hey!
Online Dating: The first dating site (Kiss.com) launched in 1994, followed by Match.com in 1995. And the latter created a love connection that’s now available in 24 countries. Inspiring a whole series of copycats. Because modern romance can be complicated, there are now sites or apps targeting specific segments. For instance, from those, well, looking for a casual fling to the marriage-minded.
Justin Bieber: Three years after he started posting DIY music videos on YouTube, the Canadian pop star became a household name in 2009.
Crowdfunding: It’s now easier than ever to make a difference. Viral social media challenges, personal donation websites and online business incubators have inspired millions to give to the causes and ideas they support. By the end of 2025, crowdsourced funding will reach nearly US$28.8 billion globally, according to research firm Valuates.
2. Apollo II
Listed second for proving risk management and out-of-this-world ambitions can make the impossible possible.
On 20 July 1969, the world watched in awe and disbelief as U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong slowly bounced across the moon’s surface. It was one small step for man and one giant leap for project management.
Long before NASA launched that 6.2-million-pound (2.8-million-kilogram) rocket and capsule, the U.S. space agency’s astronauts and mission control specialists went through bruising physiological and psychological testing, technical training and mission simulations.
The repetition helped them identify and prepare for potential danger from blastoff to splashdown. Anything less than flawless execution could have meant deadly consequences.
3. Intel 4004
Above all, Intel 4004 was listed third for democratizing the power of computing.
Generally speaking, the first electronic computer filled an entire room. But, something the size of a fingernail put all that power in people’s hands: the Intel 4004.
The predecessor to smaller, stronger, cheaper microchips, the 4004 showed it was possible to put all of a computer’s processing onto a tiny slice of silicon.
In doing so, it not only transformed existing devices, it helped create new ones.
On the other hand, Euro topped at number four for flawlessly executing the largest monetary changeover in history.
It could have easily turned into fiscal chaos. Instead, the rollout of the euro on 1 January 2002 happened with barely a hitch.
After more than a decade of planning, 12 European countries made a seamless switch to what is now the second-most-used currency in the world.
5. Human Genome Project
The human genome project ranked at number five for rising above usual silos to unlock the building block of humanity. And also, enabling unparalleled innovations in medicine, biotech, and life sciences.
Moreover, deciphering the roughly 30,000 genes that make up human life would have been challenging enough. Add in that the technology needed to do it hadn’t yet been invented.
Not forgetting, the project team spanned 20 research centers in six countries—and the odds get steeper still. The Human Genome Project wasn’t just on the frontiers of science. It was drawing the map as it went.
Other mentions in the order of their ranks from numbers 6 to 8 include:
Why was Safaricom M-Pesa ranked 9th?
For your information, the Safaricom M-Pesa project was ranked 9th in the list for delivering cutting-edge mobile technology.
Especially, that allowed Kenya to leapfrog past more advanced economies and start a banking revolution.
According to the PMI Most Influential Projects Report, in Kenya, financial institutions were scarce and the population largely unbanked in the early 2000s.
So, people began using the prepaid airtime minutes on their mobile phones as a form of currency. Trading minutes on calling cards for cash or goods and services.
This was long before the idea of mobile banking had become mainstream, before services like Venmo and Alipay had defined a market.
Surprisingly, the Kenyan community simply hacked its own solution, out of the tools at hand. And that would be the spark.
How Safaricom M-Pesa came to life
Notably, the informal exchanges caught the attention of Vodafone’s then-head of global payments, Nick Hughes. Who saw an opportunity to build a money transfer platform using mobile phones.
In addition, impacting more other nine developing markets. Including Egypt, India, and Romania, fundamentally altering their economies.
It would become a signature example of leapfrogging: using next-gen technology to advance an emerging market.
Launched in 2007, Safaricom M-Pesa allowed customers to use simple text messages to send money, make deposits and withdrawals, and purchase airtime minutes.
In the first three years of service, users transferred more than US$600 billion, generating about US$100 million in revenue for Safaricom and Vodafone.
By 2019, M-Pesa had 31.8 million active users in Kenya alone. “The customer base is growing every year along with the range of ways you can use M-Pesa,” says Chris Williamson, managing executive, M-Pesa, Vodacom Group, a subsidiary of Vodafone.
Since its inception, Kenya has become a leading tech hub in Africa, with annual GDP growth rates hovering above 5 percent.
Beyond the tech, the Safaricom M-Pesa project team also got the face-to-face model right. And also, getting early hands-on training and monitoring.
“They are our most important brand ambassadors and customer educators and act as easily accessible bank branches for all of our customers,” Williamson explains.
Today, Safaricom M-Pesa has evolved into a full financial services solution. Users can still make small payments and exchange cash, but they also pay bills, receive paychecks and social grants, and access loans and saving products offered in partnership with local banks.
It now ranks as the dominant financial services app across Africa, processing 11 billion transactions last year.
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