Billl Gates on M-Pesa

Here is Bill Gates:

Usually, “optimism” and “realism” are used to describe two different outlooks on life. But I believe that a realistic appraisal of the human condition compels an optimistic worldview. I am particularly optimistic about the potential for technological innovation to improve the lives of the poorest people in the world. That is why I do the work that I do.

Consider the example of M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile-banking service that allows people to send money via their cellphones. M-Pesa first needed to invest in many brick-and-mortar stores where subscribers could convert the cash they earn into digital money (and back into cash). This real-world infrastructure will be necessary until economies become completely cashless, which will take decades.
Without omnipresent cash points, M-Pesa would be no more convenient than traditional ways of moving money around. At the same time, it was impossible to persuade retail stores to sign on as cash points unless there were enough M-Pesa subscribers to make it profitable for them.
There have been many successful small-scale pilot programmes using cellphones. But examples of large-scale, self-sustaining programmes powered by digital technology, like M-Pesa, are harder to find, because the key pieces have not been put into place to enable the required work to advance beyond the limits of controlled experiments.
So true, so true…
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1 Comment

  1. Consider the example of M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile-banking service that allows people to send money via their cellphones.
    Jct: Poor Bill just doesn’t get that the great thing isn’t that they can send “money” via their cell-phones but that they can send their cell-phone minutes by their cell phones. The revolution is the medium of exchange isn’t money, it’s time. I’ve been labelled the World’s Richest Pauper and so in 1999, I wrote a poem “World’s Richest Pauper’s Prayer to World’s Richest Man” at Here’s a cut:
    The Richest Man must also tire of a game gone mad,
    But you have power to switch off the feedback that is bad.
    An Online L.E.T.S. by Microsoft to shop with “Hours” we trade,
    With global lifelines reaching all and money local made.
    We’ll gladly pay our service charges, cash or Green amounts,
    If you’ll be veins and arteries to link our L.E.T.S. accounts.
    Millennium! L.E.T.S. Jubilee! Give “World-Class Gift!” you can,
    If you grant Richest Pauper’s Prayer To The Richest Man.
    Jct: Bill didn’t grant the World’s Richest Pauper’s prayer. Bill could have been doing what M-PESA is doing 13 years ago. Looks like the World’s Richest Man learned about community currency a little to late to save the billion who’d have made it if he had acted. The numbers we are gambling are frighteningly high. Plus he doesn’t even see the real power behind the revolution.


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