6 October 2012

Kenya: M-Pesa Helps Net Informal Cash

Agency banking and mobile money transfer services have captured the previously elusive informal sector economy data, giving the central bank more elaborate figures to work with when designing financial policies.

Central bank governor Njuguna Ndung'u said their analysis has better overview of the real economy as opposed to yesteryear's when the only reliable data was from formal institutions.

He said the agency banking model and mobile money transfer channels have managed in a relatively short time to net small and micro economy sector money into formal channels.

"It was very difficult to know how much money circulates within the informal sector, but now we can monitor and use the data to make policy decisions," Said Ndung'u.

More than 2.5 million new bank accounts have been opened through the 13,000 agency banking outlets across the country in the last two years.

This has pushed up the number of bank deposit accounts to 16.7 million compared to a mere 2.1 million in 2005, four million of these recorded in just over a five year period.

Ndung'u expressed optimism that this will also help in tracking illegal money sources in the quest to control money laundering, by isolating those dubious dealings from those using recognized money transaction channels.

"The biggest problem in fighting money laundering and combating terrorism financing is the informality of the market,". Ndung'u said. "The moment you bring SMEs into formal ways of operations, you are actually fighting those ills."

He was speaking at a forum organized by Diamond Trust Bank in honour of the new International Finance Corporation Executive Vice President and chief executive Jin-Yong Cai.

Cai has previously worked at the World Bank as a young professional and later worked for GoldmanSachs as chief executive of global leadership team in charge of China and at Morgan Stanley in the investment banking division.

During the meeting, DTB chairman Abdul Samji said they will soon launch a new microfinance facility for very small businesses with the support of IFC. IFC is a shareholder of the bank, a relationship which began in 1983.

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