[WATCH] The Evolution of Mobile Banking in Kenya

In Kenya, M-PESA, the mobile money transfer service established in 2007 by Safaricom, is regarded as the first truly successful mobile money service in the world. M-PESA is accredited with introducing financial services to low-income and unemployed persons across the country, unlocking economic opportunities for millions.

However, before M-PESA, the Kenyan banking and finance sector was already trying new ideas to improve a rigid financial system to accommodate a changing population.


SEE ALSOKenya’s Mobile Money Transactions Up 56% in 2021 YoY So Far


Before the age of modern mobile banking in Kenya:

  • 1982 – Barclays Bank of Kenya was the first bank to fully computerize its operations in the country
  • 1990s – Clearing and processing of bank cheques took an average of 21 days – By comparison, it now takes 2 days to clear cheques
  • 1989 – Standard Chartered introduced the first ATM in Kenya
  • 2009 – The first agency banking model was introduced by Co-op Bank
  • 2010 – First mobile banking platform launched by Family Bank

In this post, we look at how the financial system of old resulted in the massive success of the M-PESA mobile money service in Kenya.

1985: Mobile Banking with Standard Chartered Bank

Possibly the first version of mobile banking in Kenya

  • In 1980, Standard Chartered bank offered mobile banking as shown in the picture below

2004: Mobile Banking with Co-operative Bank (Co-op Bank)

  • In 2004, Co-op Bank of Kenya launched its mobile banking service
  • The service used vehicles to go to customers
  • Co-op Bank allowed customers to check their account balance, request statements, and track the status of cheques
  • The service did not facilitate actual transfer of money

2016: PesaLink by the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA)

  • In 2016, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) launched Pesalink, a service that lets customers transfer money across banks
  • The service established interoperability for local commecial banks
  • Allows customers to send money from one bank account to another bank account in real time on all banks’ retail payment channels including mobile, ATM, Internet banking, Agency, Bank branches and POS
  • PesaLink provides a 24-7-365-day platform enabling customers to send money from as low as KSh. 10 ($0.1) to as much as KSh. 999,999 ($10, 000) almost instantly across banks at a very low fee

2018: PesaPap by Family Bank

  • PesaPap lets users access banking services on their mobile phone
  • Competitors would soon collaborate with Safaricom’s M-PESA to introduce the KCB M-PESA and the Safaricom Mshwari services

Post-Covid innovations within the Kenyan mobile money and banking landscape have revealed an increasing focus on blended finance and the use of moveable assets registry to address credit access to vulnerable sectors.

At the same time, Safaricom continues to tweak its M-PESA offerings by enabling more small and medium-sized businesses easily offer mobile payments to the customers.


RECOMMENDED READING: Absa Becomes the First Bank to Phase Out Cheques as a Means of Payment in Africa as Digital Banking Dominates


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