A Shout-Out for a Great Event in Nairobi, Kenya

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On Friday, September 22nd, we closed our first Africa Conference. As I mentioned to all participants, the whole process of developing the conference was, from the start, an uphill race, surmounting obstacles and convincing sceptics. But just days before the event, the pieces of the puzzle came in together and a bright and inspiring panorama opened.

Our pre-conference field trip day planned by the IMTC’s team of Paulina & Claudia and Olivia and Rachel from Safaricom M-Pesa and it was executed to perfection. Our aim was to give industry professionals a hands-on experience on the M-PESA product. Many of us have for years spoken about M-PESA with no real personal experience on the merits and details of the service.

MOBILE FINANCIAL SERVICES: PRE-CONFERENCE FIELD DAY – SEPT 20

First, at the Hotel, Olivia Etyang from M-PESA gave the group a good summary of the history of Safaricom, the beginnings of M-PESA and the different services that the M-PESA product started developing besides the Person-to-Person transfer, the Agent Cash-in and Cash-out service, the LIPA NA M-PESA merchant payment service, remittances, bill payment and other financial services such as savings, besides the connections to close to 50 banks and other financial institutions.

We divided the participants into eight groups, each one with an M-PESA guide and jumped into 4 buses that had been programmed to go to four different areas of the city selected by Olivia, Rachel and their teams.

My group went to South B, a neighborhood that has a main street with all types of shops and street vendors surrounded by living quarters such as apartment buildings and houses and close by an informal settlement. We went to an agent for a cash-out operation, then to a merchant, while the group inundated our guide with the many questions that only seasoned industry professionals could ask. A video detailing this Field Day experience is available for your viewing. I hope you watch it. Thank you M-PESA for such an amazing experience that we all enjoyed.

We came back to the Hotel at the end of the afternoon to the Welcome Reception hosted by TransferTo where we all shared our day’s experienced and networked with everyone.

FIRST CONFERENCE DAY: SEPTEMBER 21st

The first conference day was inaugurated with a welcome message from Brian Watuma from Safaricom and Nicolas Vochon from TransferTo followed by the Keynote Address by the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Dr. Patrick Njoroge. With his understanding of the industry, the Governor shared his views of the past and present of the bank’s leadership in facilitating remittances, answering questions from the audience in detail. The plenary continued with presentations from Leon Isaacs, Co-Chair of the Conference, sharing his views on African remittances followed by Hugo Cuevas-Mohr on innovation and diversity in the industry.

After lunch, participants chose between two sets of round tables, one moderated by Leon Isaacs, the other by Hugo Cuevas-Mohr. Although the Round Tables subjects were pre-determined, each one took a life of its own, with lively participation of all of those present.

The night event was glorious. Safaricom took us to The Carnivore, where singing, dancing, drinks and excellent food was the backdrop to great networking and joyful camaraderie.

SECOND CONFERENCE DAY: SEPTEMBER 22

The last day was a succession of panels with each of them giving a chance to all stakeholders to discuss their own perspectives in relation to cross-border transfers & payments. First up were banks, then mobile money operators, then smaller MTOs and Forex firms, followed by researchers and development programs and finally the fintech innovators showcasing their pioneering ideas. In the closing session, views were shared on the future of remittances in the region from both African and European perspectives.

SUMMARY AND THANKS

At the end, the conference consisted on three presentations, nine panels, four round tables and the great field trip. We had participants from 26 countries: Angola, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, DRC Congo, Egypt, France, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA and Zimbabwe.

We are very grateful to all the sponsors, Safaricom M-Pesa, TransferTo, KoronaPay, Moneytrans, Dade2, PingExpress, Contact Payment Systems, Novacambios and our partners FSD Africa, The African Institute for Remittances, the Central Bank of Kenya, the Kenyan Forex & Remittances Association, DMA Global and Mohr World Consulting.