fastjet, the Tanzanian flight operator backed by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, owner of easyJet, has started accepting M-Pesa mobile payments.
M-Pesa mobile banking is used by 17m subscribers in Kenya and 9m in Tanzania in place of a traditional bank account. Users can access the m.fastjet.com site to book flights and then receive a unique booking number by SMS, with payments made via mobile to fastjet’s business number.
The flight carrier began operating its domestic Tanzanian services from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and Kilimanjaro in November 2012. It is expected to launch its first international flights to Uganda, South Africa and the Comoros soon.
A bank in your pocket
Mobile-money services are especially useful in developing countries. A worker in the city can send money to his family in the village without having to waste a day travelling on a rickety bus. Indeed, he can pay his family’s household bills directly from his phone. It is safer too: nobody wants to carry wads of currency on public transport.
Mobile money also gives its users—many of whom are poor and have no access to banks—a way to save small amounts of money. A World Bank report found that M-PESA users are a third more likely to have some savings than their peers.
Mobile transactions are more traceable than cash, making it harder for corrupt officials to embezzle undetected. And lately Kenya has discovered a further benefit: the success of M-PESA has provided the foundation for a group of start-ups in Nairobi that are building new products and services on top of.
Afghanistan pays policemen and other officials their wages using the local version of M-PESA. Tanzania accepts tax payments by mobile-money services. They can also be used to deliver welfare or aid payments. Other countries should watch and learn!