LIVE FROM HUAWEI MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2016, TOKYO: The combination of the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile payments is accelerating the deployment of new services that can improve efficiency and transform the lives of people in Kenya.

“When you can effectively combine these two, you can unlock a world of facilities in developing markets,” Safaricom CTO Thibaud Rerolle said. “IoT represents a fantastic new world of opportunities that we can leverage in Africa, particularly in Kenya.”

He said what drives the company, which launched 4G two years ago, is to change the lives of Kenyans with the power of mobile services that not only connect people but also expand financial inclusion in the country.

Consumers in Kenya, which is mostly a prepaid utility market, can buy prepaid electricity tokens using M-Pesa on their phones and avoid long queues. But the loop is not fully connected — the consumer receives a voucher via M-Pesa and has to enter it into a smart meter, he said. It aims to work with Kenya Power to integrate that and close the loop.

Rerolle referred to the current offering as an IoT 1.0 or M2M service.

He also gave the example of a service that allows refugees to receive food rations via electronic funds put in a mobile wallet. The joint project with the World Food Programme eliminates the need to stand in long queues waiting and allows people to shop at the outlet of their choice.

M-Pesa progress
Giving an update on the progress of M-Pesa in Kenya, where it was launched nine years ago, he said the service has 24 million customers, 292,000 merchants and 130,000 agents across the country.

The M-Pesa platform has been hosted in Kenya since last year. Rerolle, who led that migration project, said the move has made the service more stable, with an improvement in network availability.

“M-Pesa proves that when people are empowered, they will use digital tech to innovate on their own behalf,” he said. “Kenya really runs on M-Pesa, with 450 transactions per second, two loans a minute and the transaction value accounting for 38 per cent of GDP per month.”

In Kenya there are more mobile money wallets than credit cards, with 90 per cent of financial transactions done with cash, he said.