So who invented M-Pesa?

Posted on May 23, 2011


This might sound boring or even stale, but then questions have been asked and answers provided as to who invented MPESA.

It is a question that seemingly wont go away, it has been in courts, newspaper and research articles have been written, but it just does not go away.

Here is the latest in the ongoing of just who invented this service…

Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, a former MP and minister of trade has been attending a fellowship at an American University. Last week he attended a conference in which Kenya became the talking point and specifically the popular MPESA money transfer service offered by Safaricom Ltd.

This is what he had to say…

Governors of central banks, top executives from The World Bank, State Department, US Treasury, White House, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and leading universities assembled to examine how to expand financial inclusion using new technologies.

Yet, at the very core of it, this parley was about Kenya.

How, as a presenter posed, a poor country on the right hand side of the map of Africa has revolutionised the use of mobile phones as a store of value and most importantly as a vehicle to bring virtually all the unbanked population into a sophisticated payment system.

How can this be copied? The eloquent presentations by The Governor of Kenya’s Central Bank, The Head of CCK and Michael Joseph (in his new capacity as Fellow of The World Bank) understandably got rapt attention.

To benchmark our achievement, we must do the unusual and acknowledge heroes who are not waheshimiwa. The M-Pesa revolution marked the meeting of three bold movers who were ready to take very major risks on innovation.

The unsung hero of this innovation was Dr Bitange Ndemo, the PS at Communications ministry, who in a letter late in 2006, urged his colleague at the Treasury to host a meeting of his team, Treasury and Central Bank to explore something he already saw as a challenge and opportunity bigger than any one agency of government could handle on its own. You can read the rest of the commentary here. 

But before the ink settled on his article, another former MP Dr Shem Ochuodho in an email to mailing list evoked the question of  just who invented this phenomenal service.

This is what he said in the email…

I have to record my disappointment …. As usual with others who have commented on this subject before, we credit (in my view) all the wrong people, but leave out the true unsung hero: the young university student who ‘invented’ mpesa – the inventor/innovator! Not even his name is mentioned, or known! In the history of technological innovation in Kenya, the ‘Governor of the Central Bank’ (notably Micah Cheserem and the present) will have a special place! On the mPesa issue, among those mentioned the only one I would fret – given the power – would the CBK Governor, who was bold enough to let this ‘experiment’ take root.

So who is this young University Student who invented MPESA?

Bizextras is on a mission to find out who this and if he really did invent the revolutionary service. Do you know him, where he is and what he does currently?

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