Vodafone has teamed up with money transfer giant Western Union to pilot a mobile money transfer scheme. The scheme builds on the success of Vodafone’s M-PESA money transfer service in Kenya offered by the country’s largest mobile operator Safaricom, which has attracted over 4 million customers since its launch in March 2007. Safaricom is 35 percent-owned by Vodafone. The new scheme expands the service to allow M-PESA subscribers to receive international remittances using Western Union’s global “hub” for processing cross-border remittances. The pilot will take place through a select number of Western Union agents based in Reading in the UK. It allows consumers to send funds to any Safaricom mobile subscriber in Kenya. Recipients can then either withdraw the funds via one of the 4,000 M-PESA agents in Kenya or forward it to another Kenyan mobile subscriber.
The service is targeting expatriate migrant workers who send money back home to Kenya. According to World Bank figures, Kenya received approximately US$1.3 billion in international remittances last year. Vodafone has recently expanded the M-PESA service to Tanzania and Afghanistan.