For generations, countries in Africa have lagged behind the rest of the world in access to banks and financial services.
Over the past few years, however, the banking industry worldwide is undergoing a revolution and East Africa is leading the way.
Imagine receiving your salary, buying tickets for an event, paying your son's tuition, or sending money instantly across the country - all by using a retro style cell phone that costs less than ten dollars.
This is exactly what is happening in places like Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda where infrastructure and government allow. Innovative banking and mobile phone technology are helping millions of residents access financial services and improve livelihoods.
Consider the case of Mary, after receiving a phone call that her sister was sick, she pushed a few buttons on her phone and sent money across the country directly to her sister's phone. Stepping to the front of the line at the pharmacy in her village, Mary's sister then transfered the money from her phone to the pharmacy's business line and walked away with urgently needed medicine. Mary was able to solve a pressing medical and financial emergency halfway across the country with a simple text message.
Five Talents is tapping into mobile banking technology for savings groups and rural development. Over the past year, Five Talents UK helped to introduce mobile money management systems in Tanzania and Kenya so that members can deposit savings, make loan repayments, and receive their loans through their phones. That's right. Members no longer need to carry cash, with the push of a few buttons monies are received, savings accrued and account balances tracked. The result is improved efficiency, reduced risk, and computerized records accessible on demand.
Mobile credit is helping customers stretch out payments for large purchases and enabling entrepreneurs to expand their businesses. Mobile banking is even being used to electrify villages. In rural Tanzania, electricity is only for the rich, and less than 10% of homes are electrified. Most resident rely on firewood, charcoal and kerosene for cooking, warmth, and light, and these fuels have dangerous environmental and health impacts. Now, however, residents can purchase solar panels on loan and repay each month through their mobile phones. Our Tanzanian partner, Mama Bahati Foundation, is working closely with M-KOPA to reach families across Iringa. The result is that many families are turning on the lights for the first time ever. Children can do their homework at night, new business opportunities are developing, and money that was previously spent on expensive fuel can be used for food or other needs instead.
With over 900 million mobile subscribers across Africa, mobile-banking is a major tool in efforts towards universal financial inclusion.
In 2016, Mama Bahati opened new branches in Morogorro and Ifupila to serve a growing client base. Meanwhile, there is huge demand at the existing banks. Since 2007, MBF has disbursed a total of $16 million in almost 30,000 small loans to 9,737 women in Iringa region. The average loan size is $136. Meanwhile, our programs in Kenya continue to expand and offer a model for microfinance across the region.