Mobile Layaway Programs: Helping to Make Investment Possible

By Katie Brigham

Innovative new technology oftentimes has the ability pay for itself  (and more!) over time. For example, KickStart’s low-cost irrigation pump has the potential to move African farmers away from a dependence on “rain-fed” agriculture, and allow entrepreneurial farmers to make money as they take greater control over their crop production. However, for the extremely poor, saving enough money to make an investment in a new technology such as a KickStart pump is highly improbable.

Consider the fact that out of the 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 per day, only 10% have access to a bank account. This makes setting aside money for savings nearly impossible. Despite the best intentions, any money stored under a mattress, or through other informal means, is at risk. Emergencies, impulse purchases, theft, and moreover a culture where spare cash comes with familial demands for monetary assistance all create an environment in which saving just isn’t feasible.

However, KickStart’s recently introduced mobile layaway program works to make saving and investment a possibility for the poor. By utilizing M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service developed by Kenyans, KickStart has established a method by which African farmers are able to incrementally pay for their pumps. Through this service, farmers can transfer secure payments from their phones to a type of electronic bank, where KickStart is able to track and hold onto the incremental payments, until a pump is paid off.

Considering the prevalence of cell phones in the countries that KickStart serves (Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso), this solution to the difficulty of investment is both innovative and realistic. There is no need for KickStart customers to have access to a bank branch. M-Pesa allows customers to complete simple banking transactions completely electronically, without the burdens and risks that come with having physical cash on hand.

With more than 9 million M-Pesa users in Kenya, KickStart has had initial success here. However, in other countries such as Tanzania, the use of M-Pesa is less widespread, leading many to wonder whether KickStart’s mobile layaway program will catch on elsewhere. Yet though the results of this program remains to be seen, KickStart’s program is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Learn more about KickStart’s mobile layaway program in this Fast Company article.

If you would like to help support KickStart’s efforts visit UniversalGiving’s website and explore these opportunities: