Business Opportunities for the Poor: How M-Pesa and Private Companies are Bringing Development to Kenya

Nikolaj levy

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis argues that private companies using the Kenyan mobile money technology, M-PESA, can drive development forward by creating business opportunities for their low-income customers. Thus, as opposed to the focus of prevalent M-PESA studies, the thesis view the engagement of private sector companies as crucial for extending the benefits of M-PESA to the poorest. Companies can leverage the technology and provide low-income Kenyans with access to products and services that were previously unavailable to them, which in turn creates business opportunities. Business opportunities are defined as an opportunity to start a new business venture or the opportunity to improve an already established business. The research is conducted by applying Jenkins’ (2008) notions of mobile money ecosystems and an adapted version of the Osterwalder et. al (2010) business model canvas. Based primarily on field research in Kenya, three cases show that companies using M-PESA can reduce their operational costs and offer flexible financing options, thereby allowing the low-income customers to buy products and services in new and improved ways The business opportunities created are associated with the different companies’ value propositions and target groups. Examples of business opportunities include: moving from subsistence to commercial farming via the KickStart pump, the Lifelink water station creating water entrepreneurs and improving the business environment by reducing the risk of corruption, and Kopo Kopo helping merchants reach more customers and obtain loans. Insights in the thesis contribute to the knowledge of how private companies can drive development forward by using mobile money and we hope it inspires further research, as well as points Kenyan companies considering the use of M-PESA in a useful direction. Finally, the thesis points to three issues which can potentially distort the developmental impact of M-PESA in Kenya. Page

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages108