Last month the Kenyan-based mobile money transfer system M-PESA launched in Romania. In an email interview, Diane Mullenex, a partner at the law firm of Pinsent Masons, discussed the expansion of M-PESA outside of Africa.
WPR: Why did M-PESA choose Romania as its first European country of operations?
Diane Mullenex: M-PESA’s success in Kenya was primarily due to several factors, including the existence of a mostly “unbanked” population, a high penetration rate of mobile phones and a non-competitive market. Naturally, when it decided to expand its M-PESA service, Vodafone searched for countries presenting the same characteristics. After India in 2013, Vodafone implemented M-PESA in Romania because of its market similarity: The majority of the Romanian population uses mobile devices, but only half of the population owns a bank account and most money transfers are made in cash. According to Vodafone, M-PESA will be accessible to 6 million people in both rural and urban areas.