Wireless operator Safaricom has extended its hugely successful M-Pesa mobile money transfer service, enabling people in the UK to send funds to friends and family in Kenya.
The M-Pesa International Money Transfer (IMT) service lets people in the UK send money directly to the mobile phones of people who have an account with the firm in Kenya.
Western Union, Safaricom and Vodafone - which has a minority stake in the Kenyan telco - began working on the international remittance service last year.
At the time, Vodafone said that increased global migration has led to a significant increase in the flow of funds from expatriate migrant workers who send money home, with the World Bank estimating that Kenya received around $1.3 billion in international remittances in 2007.
A three month pilot has now been completed, with Western Union, Provident Capital and KenTV acting as agents in the UK, with a total of 19 outlets selected to cover areas with relatively high number of Kenyans living, including Reading, London, Luton, Wembley & Glasgow.
To use the service, senders have to identify themselves to the agent and provide the recipient's name, Kenyan mobile number and the amount being sent in pounds. Exchange rate conversion to Kenya Shillings is done at the prevailing rate and the money is sent. People can send up to £250 at a time at a cost of up to £6.90. There is also a £1000 limit per month.
Recipients are sent a text message and can then collect the money from over 12,000 agents around the country or use it to pay bills, purchase airtime or send money on to other phones.
Safaricom says it will now work to expand the services to more agent locations in the UK and to other relevant markets, enabling money to be transferred from neighbouring countries in East Africa.
Michael Joseph, CEO, Safaricom, says: "We wish to invite Kenyans living in the UK to take advantage of this service, which presents a real innovation on our M-Pesa menu. Through strategic partnerships with Western Union, Provident Capital and KenTV we are giving them an opportunity to convert across two currencies into M-Pesa and send money affordably without any hidden costs - directly to the mobile phone of the recipient."
A recent study by analysts at Research & Markets suggests that more than 10% of Kenya's GDP now pass through the M-Pesa mobile banking service, which has more users than there are bank account holders in the country.