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M-Pesa launches in first European country, targets Romania’s unbanked

This is a breath of fresh air… rather than seeing an international service launching in Africa, today we see the opposite. M-Pesa, the Kenyan-born mobile money transfer and payment service, will launch in Romania — an example of an African-born solution breaking into global markets.

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Vodafone, which has an e-money licence to offer and operate financial services in Europe, will be launching the initiative.

M-Pesa functions as an alternative to cash, which Romanians primarily tend to use for transactions, and offers users a way to conduct their banking needs via their mobile phone, particularly “micro-transactions”. Romanian customers will be able to transfer anything from one new Romanian leu (0.22 euro cents) up to 30 000 lei (€6,715) per day, all through M-Pesa’s text-based system.

M-Pesa is of certain appeal to the unbanked, as Vodafone Director of Mobile Money Michael Joseph explains:

“The majority of people in Romania have at least one mobile device, but more than one-third of the population do not have access to conventional banking. Vodafone M-Pesa is already used regularly by nearly 17 million customers and we look forward to bringing the significant benefits of the service to the people of Romania.”

The roll-out of the service will initially reach around six million people in rural and urban areas through 300 Vodafone stores, but by the end of 2014 that will expand to 2000 stores to reach more of the country.

M-Pesa has a reported 16.8 million active customers as of the end of 2013, and customers make over €900 million worth of transactions each month.

M-Pesa has been quite aggressively expanding — in the last 12 months it launched services in India, Egypt, Lesotho and Mozambique.

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