Third World Innovations:
Mobile Payments in Africa

By Cross Atlantic Business Advisors, LLC


If you are like us, you love waving your phone to make a payment at your local coffee shop. Or maybe you love receiving the latest coupon at your local supermarket. Perhaps, you love boarding your flight by just waving your phone while the others use boarding passes printed on paper. That’s so passé.

While you enjoy being the cool kid, you also long for the day when this will be the norm and maybe your bulky wallet or purse will give way to just your phone. Imagine if your phone is scanned when you enter a store and instead of scanning each item at the register, you can walk out of the store with all items paid for because each time you pull an item off the shelf and throw it in your cart, your balance is adjusted.

Alright, back to today and the real world. You get to scan your phone to pay for coffee. Or, use Apple Pay where it’s accepted. However, this is 2015. Doesn’t it seem clunky that you still have to use a credit card to add money to your phone app to pay for coffee? There has to be a better way. Someone must have something better. 

As it turns out, the use of phones for payments has been around longer than we know in the West. Most people gleeful about their latest payment apps have not heard about M-Pesa. Safaricom launched this product in Kenya, (I’m sorry if you expected me to say AT&T wireless). In 2007, M-Pesa was launched and quickly became a hit. In Africa, there are millions of people who use their cell phones to pay for various goods and transfer funds to their relatives in remote areas.

M-Pesa is one example of innovation within the continent. African entrepreneurs are focused on continuing African innovation. Today, Kenya has iHub an innovation center and Ghana has a budding innovation scene as well. Hopefully, these will yield the next M-Pesa.

Cross Atlantic Business Advisors, LLC, is an international consulting firm providing finance and marketing services to small and mid-sized businesses around the world. Follow us @CAbizAdvisors or