The race to develop mobile payment systems across Africa is spawning a new generation of tech entrepreneurs from finance and farming to education and healthcare. All are helping tackle the continent’s infrastructure deficits and help meet the aspirations of an increasingly tech-savvy urbanising population.
“The conventional thing to say about Africa is it’s cursed by a lack of infrastructure,” says Jesse Moore, the chief executive of M-Kopa, a four-year-old Nairobi-based company that uses mobile phone technology to lease off-grid, solar powered lighting and power systems in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. On the contrary, Mr Moore argues, the continent’s old infrastructure deficit is spurring innovation, pointing to m-pesa, the mobile money transfer system pioneered by Kenya’s main telecoms company, Safaricom, which is 40 per cent owned by Vodafone of the UK. M-pesa is now used by 22 million Kenyans — or more than 70 per cent of the adult population.