SEATTLE (1/26/15)--An annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sets out a vision of "unprecedented opportunities" for the world's poorest people in the next 15 years. Part of that vision is access to financial services--a service that globally credit unions already are providing through mobile banking.
|(Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Graphic)|
"One interesting feature of digital financial innovation is that some of it is happening in poor countries first," the letter noted. "But because there is strong demand for banking among the poor, and because the poor can in fact be a profitable customer base, entrepreneurs in developing countries are doing exciting work--some of which will 'trickle up' to developed countries over time."
Some of that exciting work is already being advanced by the World Council of Credit Unions and the E-Kenya Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (SACCO).
E-Kenya SACCO delivers financial services to rural Kenya using mobile technology and the M-Pesa mobile money transfer network.
More and more members come online each day, said Matt Garcia, World Council cooperative development program projector director. Using mobile phones, Kenyans can transfer money from M-Pesa to their savings accounts at E-Kenya, where they can earn between 6%-8% interest, Garcia said.
"M-Pesa is like a checking account--it can be used to pay utility bills, send money to people or buy groceries," Garcia told News Now. "It makes it very easy to get to their funds."
However, if Kenyans "store" their money with M-Pesa, the key benefit is the access. By transferring it to an E-Kenya account, they can earn interest and build their assets, Garcia said. Funds can be transferred between accounts at any time.
In a country of 42 million people, 28 million--71%--have cell phones, and nearly half of mobile users have Android-based smart phones.
The Gates letter forecast that by 2030, 2 billion people who don't have a bank account today will be storing money, making payments and even procuring loans and insurance with their phones.
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., formed the foundation in 2000 with his wife, Melinda. This year's letter envisions the poor will be living longer and in better health, have more opportunities for education and will have access to nutritious food.
"The rich world will keep getting exciting new advances too, but the improvements in the lives of the poor will be far more fundamental--the basics of a healthy, productive life. It's great that more people in rich countries will be able to watch movies on super hi-resolution screens. It's even better that more parents in poor countries will know their children aren't going to die," the couple wrote.