In Kenya, a Better Life Through Mobile Money

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This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Mobile phones have revolutionized the way people connect not only with family and friends but also business services. A good example: services that let people use their phones to send and receive money.

Two companies, Safaricom and Vodafone, launched the M-Pesa mobile money service in Kenya in two thousand seven. Pesa means money in Swahili. The service operates much like a savings bank -- which is important, because plenty of Kenyans do not have bank accounts.

Most of the early users were young men who worked in cities and wanted to send money home to rural areas. Now customers can also use their M-Pesa accounts to pay bills, make purchases or pay for services like taxis. Users pay a small amount for each transaction.

Stephen Mbugua has a farm a half-hour's drive from the capital. He uses M-Pesa to receive money from his son and to pay bills.

Stephen Mbugua: "I used to go to Nairobi or to any bank to pay my bill. But now, right now, I don't go to Nairobi, I just pay my bill from here."

Some businesses use the service to pay their employees.

All across Kenya, there are stores and automated teller machines where M-Pesa users can add and withdraw money from their accounts.

People can also transfer money to other mobile phone users, even those without an M-Pesa account. The other person receives a text message with a code to take to the local M-Pesa agent to get the money.

All this pleases twenty-two year old Phelister Omari.

Phelister Omari: "It's very fast. The M-Pesa, they're available everywhere. So once you are going somewhere, you can drop, get some cash and proceed."

M-Pesa is improving economic conditions for many Kenyan families. British-based Vodaphone has also teamed with local companies to offer the service in Uganda and Afghanistan.

Safaricom says nearly eight million people in Kenya now use M-Pesa. That number is expected to grow as more people use mobile phones.

A recent report predicted that the number of mobile phone accounts worldwide will reach almost four and a half billion this year. That is twelve percent more than last year, and equal to two-thirds of the world's population.

The report was from the European Information Technology Observatory. The group says the strongest growth in mobile phone use now comes from newly industrialized and developing countries.

And that's the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT, written by June Simms. You can find transcripts and podcasts of our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. And you can find us on Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. I'm Bob Doughty.

Voice of America Special English

Source: In Kenya, a Better Life Through Mobile Money
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