Interview with Nick Hugues, Founder of M-PESA.
Nick Hughes is the founder and inventor of M-PESA (meaning « Mobile »-« Cash » in Swahili). This service, for which Hugues won The Economist Social and Economic Innovation Award 2010 and has revolutionized the lives of over 100 million people in Africa, allowing them for the first time to send and receive money and to pay for goods and services using their mobile phones without the need of having access to a bank account. This service is now used by 30 million out of a population of 40 million in Kenya, the country where it was frist trialled and launched. Since inventing M-PESA, Hugues has now founded Signal Point Partners, a private equity fund and advisory company that is investing in mobile technologies in healthcare and environmental service, and the first new innovative product from SPP will be unveiled later this year.
L.C – In your opinion, what are the benefits and importance of social entrepreneurship?
N.H – I am not sure that Social Entrepreneurship exists as a distinct « thing » -it boils down to finding solutions to problems in a manner that is economically sustainable. Perhaps the expectations of commercial returns are traded for more social benefit, but it still has to be self sustaining.
L.C – Given a company as M-PESA, what has made this social entrepreneurship business so powerful and successful?
N.H – M-PESA is service that has changed the way people transact for all sorts of goods and services. M-PESA solves a problem – namely how to move money around at a low cost where the only infrastructure in town is the mobile one. Also important, the way in which this service is delivered – and that’s where organisations such as Safaricom can bring scale and ultimately impact.
L.C – How do you view the future of social entrepreneurship, and how do you think it will develop in the years to come?
N.H – In my own world of mobile services, the road ahead is tremendously exciting. We are barely scratching the surface. For example, in Africa we are currently using smart, embedded mobile technology to allow customers access to clean solar energy that would previously have been unaffordable; and in India we have a health services business that enables people to get access to quality, primary healthcare advice 24/7.
Written by Louise Cheng, current Bachelor of Science in Business Administration student