Mobile phones have revolutionized communication and entrepreneurship in many African nations—Kenya and Tanzania included.
This cell tower located in the hills and valleys of Tukuyu, Tanzania, symbolizes connectivity and accessibility. It represents technology that not only affects day-to-day life, but impacts economic development.
Before the rampant use of mobile phones, and I’m talking approximately 10 years ago, communication was tough! Living in Canada and having to contact family members in remote villages in Africa was next to impossible. Today, almost everyone is just a phone call away. There is rarely a need to rely on the sole landline phone in the village.
I’ve witnessed first hand how mobile telephony has rapidly changed the lives and businesses of many Africans. In fact, the mobile revolution in Africa has surpassed that of many western nations. It is arguably more pervasive and affordable. Even our grandmothers who live in remote far away locations have cell phones, and not 1 but 2!
In emerging economies, cell phones are used for more than just talking. Mobile telephony has significantly transformed money transfer, education, banking, agriculture, and healthcare. It’s impossible to ignore the impact that M-Pesa—a mobile phone–based money transfer system—has had on its millions of users since launching in Kenya in 2007.
Using M-Pesa, folks can:
- Pay bills
- Deposit and withdraw money
- Transfer money
- Purchase airtime
… and all without a trip to the bank! To quote Melinda Gates:
More people in Kenya are moving money through the M-Pesa system than the banking sector
The mass adoption of mobile telephony has resulted in healthy competition that further enriches Africa’s cultural fabric. This has resulted in huge price reductions; in fact, calling the West from Africa is now 80% cheaper than the reverse! This has created a change in the power dynamic, with Africa now driving the conversation on progress.
Rampant monopolization being witnessed in the West is not allowing real change to take place in many sectors, as the pace and direction of change is under corporate control. The change conversation has to be defined by the end-users and competition is key to fostering a client-centric environment; this is something emerging economies have understood.
What does change mean to you? What kind of change are you witnessing in your society? See what others have said here: Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
- Africa’s mobile economic revolution
- Mobile Wallet Revolution: The M-Pesa Phenomenon
- The 4 Ideas That Melinda Gates Thinks Are Changing The World (fastcoexist.com)