Country Offices Contact

Les Baillie tells 'M-PESA Story' in Amsterdam

To mark the beginning of a new partnership in health, Baillie visited Amsterdam and explained how this mobile money transfer service transformed the lives of 80% of adult Kenyans.

  • May 07, 2013

PharmAccess and the Amsterdam Medical Center recently invited Les Baillie, Executive Director of the M-PESA Foundation, to tell the M-PESA success story to a crowd of partners, students and representatives from charitable organizations in Amsterdam. On April 4th, he delivered a riveting tale of how this mobile money service came into being in 2007 and how it transforms lives and livelihoods in Kenya today.

‘M-PESA is without doubt the most successful mobile application ever developed,’ Baillie said. ‘As we stand today, 80% of adult Kenyans use M-PESA as part of their daily life.’ For its client base of 18 million Kenyans, life without M-PESA has become unthinkable. People use it for all sorts of things, such as buying groceries, paying bills and safe, cash-free travelling. One of the main reasons behind M-PESA’s success, Baillie explained, is that they know what the people want. ‘If we don’t listen to customer requests, chances are we’ll develop a technological white elephant.’ The company also communicates with its customers in the vernacular. For example, the word ‘pesa’ is Swahili for money. Trust is another central issue. Baillie explained that up until as recently as 2004, ‘the two industries that Kenyans trusted the least, other than the government, were banks and telecom operators.’ Despite these unfavorable conditions, a company that wasn’t trusted developed a service that wasn’t trusted and managed to make it one of the most trusted and life-changing services in Kenya.

Onno Schellekens, Managing Director of the PharmAccess Group, is very enthusiastic about M-PESA: ‘These kind of solutions truly revolutionize access and equal opportunity for the poor.’ The PharmAccess Group recently partnered with Safaricom and the M-PESA Foundation to continue working towards its long-term goal of improving access to healthcare for low-income sub-Saharan Africans. ‘Introducing low-cost medical insurance in Kenya is something that the M-PESA Foundation has been looking into for a couple of years but hasn’t been able to get started,’ said Executive Director Les Baillie. M-PESA is already collecting health insurance premiums from high-income households. Now, PharmAccess, the M-PESA Foundation and Safaricom are going to work together to develop mobile health products such as health insurance for low-income Kenyans.

Click here to view the full lecture.