Vodafone targets M-Pesa growth across Europe

31 March 2014 | Kavit Majithia

UK-based Vodafone is seeking to bring mobile payment services to Europe, in a bid to replicate the same business model for the platform that has had so much success in Africa.

Mobile payment services have revolutionised the way consumers and businesses use banking services, and Vodafone has now acquired an e-money licence to operate financial services in Europe, with plans to first launch an M-Pesa service in Romania.

M-Pesa, which first launched in Kenya, offers a payment service for people that do not have access to banking services, enabling people to pay bills and save money without relying solely on cash.

It launched in Kenya in 2007 and it is estimated that a third of the country’s $44 billion economy goes through the system. The service has since been extended to Tanzania, Egypt, Lesotho and Mozambique.

Vodafone is looking to the Romania market, as an estimated seven million of its population rely mainly on cash.

Vodafone’s director of mobile money, Michael Joseph, said the company is mainly targeting central and eastern Europe to launch the service.

“There are one or two we are looking at, but these are unlikely to be in western Europe in the next year,” he said.

According to the Financial Times, Vodafone is exploring the possibility of offering M-Pesa to countries where it does not run a telecoms arm, but has partnerships with other corporations.

Other digital payment forms have surfaced in recent months in Europe, including Bitcoin, which allows the transfer of money between different mobile accounts.

It is thought that Vodafone will also target Italy for the service, because of its large migrant population.