Last week, the World Bank announced both the founding of a new international “Fellows Program” and the name of the first honored Fellow. The program itself is designed to attract global innovators to participate in short term advisory roles at the World Bank (three months to a year) and provide the Bank with expert knowledge and technical information on issues relating to its development work in numerous countries.
By selecting Michael Joseph, the former CEO of Safaricom (which developed M-PESA), the bank signals its commitment to both financial sector development in general, and more specifically, the delivery of financial services to underserved populations worldwide. The press release quotes Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya:
“Michael Joseph’s participation in the World Bank Fellows program will leverage the Bank’s interventions in technology and financial services in new frontiers in line with our new Africa Strategy.”
According to the World Bank:
“In Kenya, mobile connectivity has increased rapidly, creating opportunities for financial transfers and information exchange. The World Bank’s December 2010 Kenya Economic Update estimated that more than 21 million Kenyans have access to phones, with 15 million using mobile money services. In December 2010, mobile money services in Kenya reached a new record of almost US$1 billion in transactions.”
M-Pesa is one of the greatest success stories in mobile financial services, and its availability has had a significant impact on the lives of millions of Kenyans. Hopefully, Michael Joseph’s influence will enable the World Bank to engineer the necessary technology transfer to other developing economies.