Safaricom CEO’s Speech at MShwari Lunch

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.


Albert Einstein once said, “to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and it marks real advancement.” These words contain in them a message and a philosophy that we at Safaricom uphold; that to truly add value to the lives of our customers we have to be innovative.


The launch of a new product is commonplace for many companies. For us, a new product means new solutions, new possibilities, and real advancement.


For Safaricom, our satisfaction is in seeing our customers’ lives transformed by our products. We listen closely to our customers so that we can provide viable solutions for them. That is how we measure advancement.


We brought you M-PESA, which singlehandedly revolutionized how 15 million Kenyans move money around. We are proud of what M-PESA has done and continues to do. But now Ladies and gentlemen, we are looking beyond M-PESA. We are creating solutions to other existing problems.


Today, we are proud to be introducing our new life-changing product. In the past few years, we have spoken proudly of financial inclusion in Kenya. However, the numbers on the ground seem to contradict our excitement. In a population of 20 million adults, only 10 million Kenyans have access to formal financial services. This means that almost half of the adult population in the country does not have access to the important ingredient necessary for economic growth.


Research suggests that only 6 million Kenyans hold the 12 million bank accounts we have. What these figures do not capture is the funds that do not make it into the formal banking system. I am talking about money that is hidden away in the layers of the mattresses, lockboxes, and some even buried away in the ground.


What is even more startling is the amount of unbanked money. Research indicates that a staggering 200 billion shillings remains unbanked, not earning interest and not generating much value to their owners. . More importantly however, these funds are not safe.


Financial inclusion is as fundamental a human right as any other. We are all well aware of the link between financial inclusion and poverty alleviation. The fact that half of our adult population cannot access formal financial services is dispiriting in the country’s journey towards Vision 2030.


Looking at all this, one would confidently argue that there indeed is a gap staring at us even as we speak proudly of ‘financial inclusion’. It is said that inclusive societies are accessible societies. We therefore need viable ways to help the unbanked save efficiently and safely.


The product we launch today provides an answer to all these issues. This product is a starting point to getting this money out of the mattresses and placing it where it generates interest and adds value to its owners. Safaricom is proud today to present M-Shwari.


M-Shwari, an innovative tool that enables people to save and borrow money using their mobile phones. We have partnered with Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) to bring you a product that will give poor Kenyans access to affordable loans based on their savings.We believe that it will transform lives by providing financial access for all and enhancing the culture of saving among Kenyans while providing the poor with access to affordable credit.


This is a product that will make our customers’ money work for them, no matter how little or how much.  With M-Shwari, one can save as little as 1 shilling and borrow as low as 100 shillings.


M-Shwari will go long way in sustaining many poor Kenyan families by providing a seamless avenue to save, earn interest, and borrow without loss of dignity. We know that the future is never ours to predict, and that emergencies like sickness or death are inevitable. For those with access to formal banking services, banks often come to the rescue. However, for the millions of the unbanked, shylocks and the kiosk owners are the redeemers. On tough days, M-Shwari will be there to provide micro-credit services at a minimum of Ksh100 anytime. The loan shall be transferred instantly to the customer’s M-Pesa account.


Many unbanked adults talk about distance from the banks and opening balances as impeding factors. M-Shwari will require no minimum balance. There will be no charges for moving money from M-Pesa to M-Shwari and vice-versa. There will be no need to fill in a paper, form or produce identity cards to access these services. Simply put, there will be no excuse for anyone to save money under a pillow, in a mattress or lock box



Financially inclusive societies create and unleash the potential for all to contribute to prosperity and stability in development. That is what we at Safaricom want to achieve with our M-Shwari product. We know the possibilities for the creation of wealth and reduction of poverty. We know the difference it can make if the millions of men and women who are excluded from financial services have access to them.

That is why we are proud of M-Shwari because it will ensure that financial services are not an exclusive preserve for a few, but an accessible service for all.



As I conclude, I would like to thank Commercial Bank of Africa for walking this journey with us. Without them, this product would not be possible. CBA has always taken a chance with Safaricom from when we launched what would become our most celebrated product, M-PESA to today when we are launching an equally transformative product. CBA, we are grateful for your partnership and just as equally thankful for the role you have played in bringing financial inclusion to all Kenyans.


I would also like to thank the Government of Kenya and particularly the Central Bank of Kenya and ministry of Finance.  These two government vehicles have been forward thinking in harnessing the power of mobile technology for financial inclusion. To the Ministry of Information and Communications, thank you for fostering an innovative ICT sector.


Thank you all for encouraging mobile operators to be more innovative in delivering products that add value to our lives.


Asanteni sana.




Written by Robert

Robert Alai is a respected Kenyan blogger, technical evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle or Facebook page. he is the founder of KahawaTungu.

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