mPesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. It has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India and in 2014 to Romania and in 2015 to Albania. M-Pesa allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services (Lipa na M-Pesa) easily with a mobile device.
The service allows users to deposit money into an account stored on their cell phones, to send balances using PIN-secured SMS text messages to other users, including sellers of goods and services, and to redeem deposits for regular money. Users are charged a small fee for sending and withdrawing money using the service. M-Pesa is a branchless banking service; M-Pesa customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents.
M-Pesa has spread quickly, and by 2010 had become the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. By 2012, a stock of about 17 million M-Pesa accounts had been registered in Kenya. The service has been lauded for giving millions of people access to the formal financial system and for reducing crime in an otherwise largely cash-based society.