Jun 25, 2014

Mobile Money Agents in Kenya Seeing Declining Profits

Holding a third of the world’s 61 million active mobile money accounts, Kenya is the clear global leader in digital finance. 

Across East Africa, Kenyan agents generate the highest amount of transactions per agent, but the lowest amount of profits in the region.  

Surprisingly, Kenyan agents earn a lower median profit per month ($70) than both Tanzania ($95) and Uganda ($78).  With new agents consistently joining the market, competition is having a negative impact on profits and driving existing agents in having to expand their business outside digital finance to supplement their income.  

Read the Kenyan Agent Network report to understand the successes and struggles of Kenyan mobile money agents. Download report.


May 14, 2014

Kenya Start up Uses Technology To Disrupt Small Business Lending

Kopo Kopo, a leading provider of business management software with over 10,000 clients in Kenya, is pleased to announce its new merchant cash advance service called “Grow.” Unlike a traditional bank loan, Grow is designed to help businesses grow and prosper by accommodating their cash flow cycles. Grow cash advances are disbursed in minutes, require no personal guarantee and come with no late fees or penalties.



“In our years of doing business, we’ve seen even our best customers struggle to access capital for their businesses,” according to Kenya CEO, Francis Mugane. “Given our mission  to help businesses grow and prosper, solving this problem with Grow was a logical next step – and it’s only one of many steps to come.”
Businesses automatically become eligible for “Grow” after accepting electronic payments via Kopo Kopo for three months.

 The more electronic payments a business accepts via Kopo Kopo, the more cash they are eligible to receive at a lower fee. Once eligible, a business owner chooses how much they want to receive and what percentage of daily sales should be deducted via Kopo Kopo to repay the cash advance. The business owner then agrees to a simple fixed fee, and funds are disbursed to their Kopo Kopo account within minutes.

“We believe electronic payment acceptance is the first step on the path to modern, digital commerce,” said Mr. Mugane. “We see Grow as an opportunity to help businesses access capital while simultaneously encouraging them to start moving away from cash.”


Grow is ideal for businesses looking to replenish stock, refurbish their premises, or launch a new business line. Since repayments are based on electronic sales, Grow perfectly aligns with a business’s cash flow: Kopo Kopo deducts a larger amount when sales are high, a smaller amount when sales are low, and no amount when there are no sales.

Apr 30, 2014

Success and Struggles of Mobile Money Agents in Tanzania


Since the launch of mobile money in Tanzania five years ago, the country has witnessed exponential growth with ‘less than 1% of the adult population having access to mobile financial services in 2008, to 90% access by September 2013’. The country is now on the cusp on the next stage of evolution, integrating banks into the ecosystem, and offering services like merchant payments at retail stores.  However, for Tanzania to continue to push the frontier of mobile money, it will have to also take a hard look at some of the compromises providers have had to make on the quality of agent operations to reach such impressive scale so quickly.

Strong in the belief that strategic agent network management is the key to a successful digital financial services business model, The Helix Institute of Digital Finance has this week launched its Agent Network Accelerator – Tanzania Country Report, based on over 2,000 mobile money agent surveys carried out in 2013 all over the country. The survey covered all mobile money and agent banking providers in Tanzania, with a special focus on the country’s leading providers– Tigo Pesa, Vodacom and Airtel.  The report highlights the country’s factors for success in agent network management and what the industry needs to focus on in the next stages of development.

The Tanzania Report is The Helix Institute’s second country report on agent networks (Uganda Country Report released in January 2014), and is part of its cutting-edge Agent Network Accelerator (ANA) research project.

 ANA, a collaboration The Agent Network Accelerator – Tanzania Country Report (available for download at http://helix-institute.com/data-and-insights/coming-soon-agent-network-survey-tanzania-country-report-2013 ) finds that agents in general run a healthy business, with just under 50% earning at least $US 100 per month, but still face issues with liquidity management,  service downtime and fraud.  The research also unveils the challenges that come with being a competitive market in rapid growth, with significant opportunities for providers to improve on their agent selection, product offerings and geographical spread into the rural areas. Read the report in full to understand the successes and struggles of Tanzania’s mobile money agents in more detail.

Agent Network Accelerator Survey: Tanzania Country Report 2013

The Helix Institute has launched the report for theTanzania the agent network accelerator survey held in 2013.

The Tanzania Country Report is based on a national representative sample of over 2,000 mobile money agent surveys carried out in 2013 all over the country. The report depicts Tanzania as a dynamic and competitive market with profitable agents, focusing on the country's operational factors of success and residual challenges.
Key findings from the report:
  • Agents are overwhelmingly profitable, with 49% earning at least $US 100 per month in profits, compared to only 40% in Uganda.
  • Over 70% of Agencies are 'new' (having been in operation for a year or less) demonstrating aggressive growth in the market, however the small percentage of 'old' agencies suggests they have a short life-cycle.
  • Rapid growth and the non-exclusivity of agents is putting pressure on liquidity, with 5 transactions a day being denied due to lack of float
  • Competition is resulting in better support, with 79% of agents receiving training, but improvement are still needed in targeted areas. 
Click here to read the report in full: Agent Network Accelerator Survey: Tanzania Country Report 2013' .

Apr 8, 2014

How Kopo Kopo is Driving Mobile Payments Acceptance in Small Businesses

Kopo Kopo provides tools to facilitate mobile payments through existing platforms, focusing on merchant payments that enable small and medium businesses to accept mobile money payments from their customers. Having now reached over 12,500 merchants in East Africa, the team aims to expand to new markets, working with mobile money providers interested in rolling out merchant payments.


For further information download the Mobile For Development report : Case Study - Kopo Kopo (pdf)

Feb 18, 2014

What is driving the success and scale of mobile money agents in Uganda?

After its official launch in Kampala in January 2014, The Helix Institute of Digital Finance has this week published its ‘Agent Network Accelerator Survey – Uganda Country Report’, available for download at www.helix-institute.com/data-and-insights. The Uganda report is the first of eight country reports on agent networks, as part of the cutting-edge Agent Network Accelerator (ANA) research project.

 ANA, a collaboration between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MicroSave, is the largest research project on agent networks in the world, focusing on the country’s factors for success in agent network management and what the industry needs to focus on in the next stages of development.

In general, the report finds that agents are pervasive and profitable in Uganda, but face large-scale issues of fraud, service downtime and robbery.  There seem to be significant opportunities for providers to expand the networks to rural areas far beyond the financial infrastructure, increase the quality of agent support, and offer more products at the agent level.

The Uganda Agent Network report is based on over 2,000 mobile money agent surveys carried out in 2013 all over the country. Uganda is among eight African and Asian countries participating in the world-class research project, selected for their contribution to the development of digital financial services globally. The other African countries surveyed in the four-year project include Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. In Asia the countries to be surveyed are India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Tanzania and Kenya reports are scheduled to be released in the coming months, with data from Bangladesh due after that.


The information gathered from the country reports will be infused into training courses offered through The Helix Institute of Digital Finance. The Helix Institute is running four Agent Network Accelerator (ANA) training courses this year. The Core ANA Courses – for deployments focusing on building an agent network, will run in March and August. The Advanced ANA Courses – for deployments managing a nationwide network of agents, will run in April and September. Visit their website www.helix-institute.com for more details. 

Bharti Airtel wins Kalahari Awards at 4th MobileMoney Expo 2014

 In recognition of its contributions and commitment to mobile financial services across 15 countries in Africa, Airtel Money, a mobile money platform of Bharti Airtel has been awarded the prestigious Kalahari Award 2014 as a player in the mobile money sector with the “fastest growth and expansion in Africa.”

On the same vein, Bharti Airtel’s Director and Africa Head, Airtel Money, Chidi Okpala was honoured as the MobileMoney Kalahari "Personality of the Year" at the 4th MobileMoney Expo held in Lagos.

Receiving the Kalahari Awards on behalf of Airtel Money, Mr. Okpala expressed appreciation to organisers of the event saying, “the awards testify to the impact and contributions of Airtel Money to the mobile financial sector in Africa.”

He said, “Airtel Money is humbled by this awards which show the output, hard work and heavy lifting by Airtel Money in just 30 months. As an organisation, we remains humble for this feat and are aware of the responsibility it further imposes on us and we are challenged to do more for our teeming customers across the African market.

Speaking further, he stated that, “It is in line with the vision of Bharti Airtel to be the leader in mobile financial services by 2015. We assure our customers that Airtel Money remains committed and will do more in terms of financial inclusion.” He also expressed appreciation for being honoured with the MobileMoney Kalahari "Personality of the Year."

Earlier in his presentation at the Expo, the Bharti Airtel Director who was one of the speakers at the occasion highlighted the significant contributions of Airtel Money to the mobile financial sector in Africa, saying it generates a daily average of 1M transactions valued at $25M from an active base of 5Million customers. He had noted that the Airtel Mobile Money platform assists governments, businesses, institutions, embassies and schools across the African continent.

He said, “Leveraging a network of about 140,000 active agent locations, Airtel is currently creating entire cashless payments ecosystems, leading the charge for massive scale financial inclusion and reducing financial transaction costs across Africa.”

He also harped on a recent World Bank report which indicates that millions of people have mobile phones but do not have mobile money services, this he said, creates the opportunity for Airtel Money to penetrate into the mobile money sector.

He said, “Airtel is renowned for revolutionizing the mobile money landscape in Africa with the ground-breaking Airtel Money. It is also on record that Airtel is the fourth largest telecoms company in the world with over 287 million customers with operations in 20 countries.

Generating a daily average of 1M transactions valued at $25M from an active base of 5Million customers, the Airtel mobile money platform currently operates in 15 African countries and renders significant services to governments and the armed forces. These include processing salaries for governments, workers and members of the armed forces thereby eliminating problem of ghost workers.

The Bharti Airtel Director also noted that the platform offers convenience to the people, hinting that it will be launched in Seychelles next month.

He described the service is an innovation which enables customers to turn their phones into electronic wallets. “Activating the Airtel Money service allows millions of customers to transfer money to their loved ones across different countries in Africa, to purchase goods in partner shops and to pay their bills.  

“Airtel Money is available to all Airtel customers. It is a safe and secure service that is password-protected through state-of-the-art security systems. Customers do not require a bank account to enjoy the benefits of the Airtel Money service,” Okpala said.


The 4th MobileMoney Expo was a 2-day event attracted organisations, telecommunications solutions companies and mobile financial organizations across Africa and the world. It commenced from Wednesday 12th   to Thursday 13th of February, 2014 and featured panel discussions, presentations and awards ceremony.

Feb 7, 2014

3G Direct Pay and Kopo Kopo Partner to Bring Mobile Payments to The African Online Travel Market

3G Direct Pay Limited, a leading online payments service provider, today announced a strategic business partnership with Kopo Kopo, a merchant services platform for mobile network operators in emerging markets.

Eran Feinstein, Managing Director, 3G Direct Pay Limited signed the partnership agreement which he said would bring innovative payment options for the regional travel industry.

“Our partnership, the first of any in the world, will introduce mobile money to the online arena,” commented Feinstein.  “Together, 3G Direct Pay Limited and Kopo Kopo will provide the travel providers with the option to accept online all modes of payment from credit cards, PayPal, and Mobile Money.

“By using the Kopo Kopo merchant services platform, 3G Direct Pay Limited will provide all leading mobile money options in the region as part of its online platform used by the travel providers. This includes Kenya’s M-PESA as well as Tanzania’s M-Pesa and Tigo Pesa, with additional services to soon follow.”

While the 3G Direct Pay’s platform provides a secure online payments solution to any provider and can be used as part of any e-commerce checkout, Kopo Kopo’s end-to-end platform allows operators and other payment providers to acquire and manage merchants who wish to accept mobile money payments.

“Mobile money has emerged as one of the fastest growing consumer products,” said Francis Mugane, Head of Sales & Distribution, Kopo Kopo.  “The Kopo Kopo platform creates a vital link in the mobile money ecosystem by allowing consumers to pay at the merchants of their choice, unlocking billions in potential demand. We make it easy, inexpensive and convenient for a business to accept mobile money payments.”

Mr. Feinstein explained the system process step-by-step:
  • end customer visit the payment page (powered by 3G Direct Pay Limited)
  • end customer selects mobile money option (based on the they country)
  • end customer pays online using they mobile money account
  • 3G Direct Pay providers real-time confirmation to the end customer


3G Direct Pay Limited leads the African online travel market since 2006, where hundreds of travel businesses and millions of end customers can shop, pay, sell and get paid. The online payments platform is connected to all leading credit card types and electronic wallets, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal. 3G Direct Pay Limited fills the online gap between the providers and the consumers.


“3G Direct Pay Limited is renowned in the travel and tourism industry, where we offer our clients through our online platforms.  Our partnership with Kopo Kopo will enable our East African clients to extend their payment options using mobile money anywhere in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar,” concluded Feinstein.

Feb 6, 2014

M-KOPA Solar Reaches 50,000 customers within 15 months of launch

M-KOPA Solar is today announcing that it has closed its most recent round of funding, raising US$ 20 million (Ksh 1.72 Bn) to fund expansion of their customer base from 50,000 homes to one million homes by 2018. M-KOPA Solar is an innovative asset financing company that sells solar home systems to off grid households, on an affordable 12-month mobile money payment plan.

The funding includes a US$ 10 million (Ksh 860 million) commercial-grade syndicated debt facility fronted by a leading East African bank, Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA). The system is sold in partnership with the Safaricom dealer network, and the consumer payment plan is offered through Safaricom’s mobile money platform, M-PESA.

Mr. Jesse Moore, Co-Founder and Managing Director, M-KOPA Solar says, “The M-KOPA Solar model makes world class solar systems affordable for low income consumers – most of whom live below the poverty line.  It’s a model that is also proving attractive to investors. At the heart of our business is our patented technology platform that combines embedded GSM with mobile payments to revolutionise asset financing.

“We know Kenyans spend over US$ 1 billion (Ksh 86 billion) a year on kerosene. We also know Kenyans would prefer brighter, healthier and safer alternatives. We’ve developed our technology and business model precisely to meet that consumer need.”

The collateral for the CBA-led loan is M-KOPA Solar’s future cash flows from its customer payment plans. This innovative lending structure involves the securitisation of a loan book composed of low-income consumers, sometimes without bank accounts or fixed abode, paid entirely through the Safaricom M-PESA system. This is different to most collateral packages that are backed up by assets – like land.

Mr. Jeremy Ngunze, CEO at CBA says, “As a group, we understand the aspirations and realities of African economies and this investment in M-KOPA Solar makes sound business sense for us.

“There is very little formal credit or financial information on how off grid households consume and pay for energy. We’re very impressed with M-KOPA Solar’s technology platform, which allows them to extend credit to customers who are otherwise lacking formal collateral or credit histories. And it is clear that there is an enormous, creditable market that wants to be empowered by cutting-edge energy, telecommunications and financial solutions.”

Other lenders in M-KOPA Solar’s debt facility are Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LGT Venture Philanthropy, Imprint Capital, and Netri Foundation.  The US$ 20 million in funding includes grants from DFID UK, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Shell Foundation. And there is re-investment by lead equity investors Gray Ghost Ventures. Funds are being used to scale up sales and operations in East Africa, expansion into other markets, R&D and business intelligence.

Mr. Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom Limited says, “We’re incredibly proud to have been an anchor partner for M-KOPA Solar and to see this Kenyan success story starting to go global. Our technology, fantastic customers and dealer network have provided a unique environment to scale up the M-KOPA Solar model.

“Every day there are people coming into our shops looking to revolutionise their access to energy by acquiring M-KOPA Solar. And each day we’re seeing more and more people successfully complete their M-PESA payment programmes. By providing this service, we are not just lighting homes, but we are also enabling children to do their homework at night as well as providing convenient unlimited mobile charging at home.”

M-KOPA Solar currently offers customers a high quality d.light D20G solar system with three lights, phone charging and a solar powered radio – which is all backed by a two-year warranty. The system is available for a deposit of Kes 2999 (US$ 35) followed by 360 daily payments of Ksh 50 (US$ 0.58, inclusive of VAT).

Repayment rates on the M-KOPA Solar payment package are at 95 per cent even though most households have per capita incomes below US$ 2 per day. A recent independent survey, by TNS Research International Kenya, reported that 97 per cent of households with M-KOPA Solar were saving money compared to their previous daily spend on kerosene.


Mr. Moore says, “Our investors and customers appreciate that M-KOPA Solar can do well as a business and change lives at the same time.”

Jan 29, 2014

Is Global Financial Inclusion Possible By Year 2020?

In the following video, global financial inclusion leaders explore the questions of whether financial inclusion is possible by 2020, and why we should work towards that goal.




The video features the following individuals:

Ajay Banga, CEO, MasterCard Worldwide
Cherie Blair, Founder, The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Mark Hookey, Founder, Demyst.Data
Nick Hughes, Director of Strategy, M-KOPA
Edward Effah, Managing Director, Fidelity Bank
Bob Annibale, Global Head, Citi Microfinance & Community Development, Citi
Jean-Claude Masangu Mulongo, Former Governor, Banque Centrale du Congo
Elly Ohene-Adu, Head of Banking Department, Bank of Ghana
Duvvuri Subbarao, Former Governor of Reserve Bank of India
Martyn Parker, Chairman, Global Partnerships, Swiss Re
Susie Lonie, Mobile Money Consulting Director, Consult Hyperion/SJLCS

Jan 19, 2014

Emerging Trends for Mobile Money Agent Networks in 2014

Talking about the world’s most ambitious research project on agent networks, Mike McCaffrey, Head of Digital Financial Services - Africa at Microsave, highlights three key trends to watch out for agent networks in 2014; inter-connectivity, liquidity tethering and fraud.

 Mike also introduces The Helix Institute of Digital Finance, a world-class training institute for digital finance (mobile money and mobile banking) practitioners. 


Jan 15, 2014

The Helix Institute of Digital Finance to Present Cutting-Edge Data on Mobile Money Agents in Uganda

The Helix Institute ofDigital Finance has today launched its first country assessment report in Uganda, based on over 2,000 mobile money agent surveys carried out in 2013 all over the country.  Uganda is among four African countries participating in the world-class research project, selected for its contribution to the development of digital financial services globally. The report focuses on the country’s factors for success in agent network management and what the industry needs to focus on in the next stages of development.


While launching the report Kimathi Githachuri, Head of The Helix Institute of Digital Finance and former Head of Warid Pesa (before the acquisition by Airtel Uganda), commented “The insights from Helix’s Uganda Report are very critical and present some unique findings which will assist us to develop standards and best practices in achieving sustainable digital financial service delivery across the world.”  Speaking at the same event, Mr. Samson Odele, the Uganda Country Manager at MicroSave noted that ‘…the financial sector in the country stood to gain immensely from the research findings and the courses offered at The Helix Institute of Digital Finance."

The other African countries surveyed in the four-year project include Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. In Asia the countries to be surveyed are India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. These eight countries are considered the world’s leading providers of mobile money and mobile banking services.   


The cutting-edge research project, a collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and MicroSave, is the largest research project on agent networks in the world, designed to determine what drives their success and scale.  The information gathered from the Uganda country report will be infused into training courses offered through The Helix Institute of Digital Finance, the first training institute explicitly designed to equip industry leaders with effective strategies and powerful tools to build, manage, and grow mobile money agent networks in their respective markets.

The Helix Institute’s inaugural Advanced Agent Network Accelerator training courses, held in Nairobi Kenya, was attended by 22 participants from 11 countries, collectively serving over 410 million customers in their core business and over 23 million in their mobile money/mobile banking business. Participants included representatives from Airtel India, Tigo Tanzania, Grameenphone Bangladesh, Family Bank Kenya, Bank Sinar Harapan Bali Indonesia and EcoBank Ghana to name a few.

The Helix Institute will be running four Agent Network Accelerator training courses in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.  Next course dates are March 24th-28th for nascent markets and April 14th-18th for more advanced players. For more details, please visit www.helix-institute.com, email info@helix-institute.com or follow Helix on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Nov 17, 2013

Airtel Money Partners with Grameen Foundation to Provide Mobile Financial Services to Savings Groups in Uganda

Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”), a leading telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, today announced that it is working with the Grameen Foundation to initiate a project to provide mobile financial services to Savings Groups in Uganda. 

The innovative project, dubbed ‘Airtel Chama’ (“chama” means “savings group” in Swahili) aims at reducing Savings groups’ reliance on cash and seeks to introduce the benefits of mobile technology to approximately 900,000 people in Uganda.

Uganda currently has over 45,000 village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) with over 900,000 members. The country is the largest market for savings groups globally.

Savings Groups (SGs) are self-managed community-based groups that provide members access to basic financial services. SGs are very popular amongst African women, especially those who are not involved in the formal financial sector. Currently, most saving groups are cash-based, thus the potential for fraud and theft is very high. The Airtel Chama service will address this issue by making the savings groups’ processes more secure, efficient and transparent.

In addition, the Airtel Chama service will also provide credit to those who don’t have access to it through traditional channels. Given that at least 70% of savings groups’ members are women, the innovative service will be a catalyst for women empowerment in Uganda. Thanks to the Chama platform, women will have better access to credit facilities and their loan applications will be processed faster in financial institutions. The Airtel Chama service answers the government call of empowering women and enabling them to contribute towards development.

“In some cases, women cannot save their earnings because they are obliged to give any money they have to their husbands. With Airtel Chama, women’s savings are private and digitized; these women will be more empowered because their husbands will have a harder time taking their money away”, explains Chidi Okpala, the Director of Airtel Money Africa.

He continues: “At Airtel, we recognize innovative telecommunications solutions have the power to transform communities. The Chama initiative will promote more economic transactions in the rural areas. It will lead to rural development and it will reduce poverty. We are excited and thankful to the partners involved in birthing this initiative: GSMA and the Grameen Foundation”.

GSMA mWomen has lauded Airtel Uganda’s efforts and has awarded the Innovation Fund grant to the telecommunications company. Airtel will use the money towards decreasing the gender gap in mobile access and increasing women’s use of mobile in Uganda. The Grameen Foundation will monitor the social impact of the Airtel Chama service on Ugandan women.


Airtel plans to further develop the Chama initiative and is eager to implement it across all its markets on the continent. 

Nov 14, 2013

Kopo Kopo Secures $2.6 Million Dollars Series A Funding Led By Javelin Venture Partners

Kopo Kopo, a merchant services platform serving thousands of businesses in East Africa, announced today that it raised $2.6 million in Series A financing. Javelin Venture Partners led the round withVinod Khosla’s Impact Fund, an existing investor. Accion Venture Lab also participated. Noah Doyle of Javelin Venture Partners will join Kopo Kopo’s board of directors.

In the last two years, Kopo Kopo has become a premier merchant services platform by partnering with mobile operators launching mobile money payment systems. Kopo Kopo’s end-to-end platform allows operators and other payment providers to acquire and manage merchants who wish to accept mobile money payments. The Company will use the new capital to hire top talent, expand its platform offering and accelerate global growth beyond East Africa with the goal of incorporating millions of merchants across the economic frontier into the formal financial system.

Kopo Kopo aspires to create the merchant ‘operating system’ of choice for businesses in emerging markets.

“Merchants in emerging markets — like merchants anywhere — need tools and services to grow their business,” said Dylan Higgins, Kopo Kopo’s co-founder and CEO. “Kopo Kopo, in partnership with rapidly growing mobile money systems like M-PESA, helps merchants succeed by moving their businesses onto a digital platform and empowering them with state-of-the-art software tools like remote monitoring, bank integrations, customer messaging, and even Android applications.”

“Mobile money has emerged as one of the fastest growing consumer products ever, with adoption rates reaching as high as 70% in only five years in Kenya. The Kopo Kopo platform creates a vital link in the mobile money ecosystem by allowing consumers to pay at the merchants of their choice, unlocking billions in potential demand. Javelin is thrilled to support Kopo Kopo’s mission to enable flexible mobile payments for merchants across emerging markets,” said Noah Doyle, a partner at Javelin Venture Partners.


“Digital payment acceptance is a fundamental on-ramp to financial inclusion in the global economy and financial safety in the local context,” said Vinod Khosla. “Kopo Kopo is at the forefront of making this happen for merchants in Africa, and soon, around the world.”