“Innovation creates value but as it drives progress, the scammers & fraudsters are always keen on taking lead. We need to do better.”

As a believer in disruptive innovations and the power of business to drive development, I’ve over the time talked highly of Safaricom. As an organization, Safaricom has played a critical role in transforming the financial sector in Kenya with the advent of MPESA. This have helped in easing movement of money, promoting businesses and beyond that they’ve made it easier even to receive business payments. This has been through the novel solutions i.e. Business Pay Bill & Lipa Na MPESA Till Number options. On this account I’m certain every Kenyan to an extent have had a feel of the impact of MPESA on their lives which is commendable.

However, as much as we can see the good that this creative disruption brought to the financial sector, I’m also cognizant of the challenges that have come with it. In 2016, I made my maiden trip to Uganda by road for a ROTARY Summit. On this occasion I was to witness the corruption in our police system both Kenyan & Ugandan. A fellow passenger had forgotten his Yellow Fever card at home and knowing that this is a requirement, he was to either go back home or bribe the border officials. I’m sure you’ve guessed the choice he made. Bribing the police officers he did but on this account through MPESA having known that he could reverse the amount once we were past the border post. He recovered the money within 20 minutes past the border post but unfortunately this didn’t last longer for the border officers made it their business to follow through and so he had to make peace with paying the bribe. I’m not going to make judgement on this case for either way both parties weren’t doing the right thing. Receiving and taking of bribes followed with stealing the bribe. Why do I bring this story up? You may ask.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, public health measures that were instituted to control the spread of infection included use of mobile/digital payment solutions to reduce contact through use of hard cash. With MPESA having been at the core of our business operations, this was adopted with ease. Unfortunately, the witty side of humanity didn’t take long to manifest. Relying on public means to travel around the city, I’ve become accustomed to using MPESA for payments and considering not all the vehicles have the MPESA business payment options, it’s about sending money to individual numbers. I’ve done this with ease until recently when the recent containment measures were put in place that I started witnessing conductors explicitly indicating their unwillingness to use the MPESA option. It was a concern for me until today that I had a conversation with an old mama, a typical brick and mortar trader who counts on her daily operations to sustain her livelihood. In her account, she used to accept MPESA payment options but currently she stopped because in some instances she had to deal with reversal of payments by clients who had already taken her products. This broke my heart. How does one take fruits worth Kshs. 100 from an old mama who depends on that for a living to reverse the whole amount?

It’s been a painful ordeal knowing that we are a mess as a people stealing from everyone and anyone when and where we can. As this happens, how do we feel when we look at ourselves in the mirror when we steal from those in our midst? How do we expect the system to be fair when we aren’t fair by ourselves? We need to do better as a people.

To Safaricom, I think there’s need for extra measures to help individuals curb such i.e. approval measures from recipient to help with such reversals from unscrupulous persons. It’s high time we work beyond the basic business models and think for those who entrust us to look out for them.

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