Even a 10 percent excise duty the Kenyan Treasury imposed on mobile-money transactions in February did not stop them from growing 22 percent over the past year, according to the country's central bank. Spanish telecom company Telefonica is introducing mobile wallet services in eight countries in Latin America and Europe and aims to expand that to its entire customer base—300 million people in 26 countries—in the next couple years, according to the 2012 Sybase Mobile Commerce Guide.Fellahi said much will depend on two things: slow-footed banking regulators getting with the program and operators figuring out ways to standardize protocols.So the arrival of a system that could do it cheaply and within minutes was extremely attractive." The third condition—a single dominant player—has proved elusive in other countries, partly because the wild success of M-Pesa has caused others to rush in and create fragmented markets.Whereas in Kenya Safaricom's M-Pesa enjoyed a snowball effect, in other countries it has been harder for the obvious choice to emerge—customers mainly want to use what everyone else is using, for the sake of convenience and usability.So DBBL initiated a program to allow them to gather interest if certain conditions, such as transaction frequency and length of deposit, are met."It's possible because a bank is running the service," Nair said.A husband working in Nairobi can send money home to the countryside with a couple of taps on his mobile phone.His wife can cash out at the increasingly ubiquitous shops with M-Pesa agents—the number of agents across the country increased 40 percent last year to more than 65,000But what's been most surprising given M-Pesa's blockbuster success—19 million of Kenya's 44 million people subscribe, including more than two-thirds of the adult population, and a quarter of the country's economy flows through the mobile-money service—is how other countries have failed to replicate that success.
Fascinated by the country, Klougart spent her nights and weekends travelling the country in search of stories.The killer app of facilitating money transfers to rural regions was somewhat unique and particularly well suited to Kenya, said Paul Makin, head of mobile money at Consult Hyperion, the lead consultancy in building M-Pesa for the mobile operator Safaricom.(: Paying cash costs Americans 0 billion a year) "Kenya is unusual in that it has a long history of domestic migration," Makin said.(: Zimbabwe's teen texters explain all) "We're agnostic to models," said Khalid Fellahi, head of Western Union Digital, which partnered with M-Pesa in 2008 and now facilitates money transfers between Kenyan subscribers and people in 45 countries and territories.
"Telcos provide reach that banks cannot, and it wouldn't be sustainable for them to try," he said.
In Bangladesh, where 87 percent of people have no bank account due to poverty and/or limited access to banks, poor and remote Bangladeshis had one thing going for them: Most already had basic cellphones.