Sherri Haas and Geetha Nagarajan

November 2011


M-PESA, e-money transfer, health, Safaricom, mobile money

Download the entire report as a PDF

M-PESA and access to health in Kenya

Much is now written about M-PESA on its business model and extent of its use at the household and community levels. M-PESA is an agentassisted, mobile phone-based, person-to-person payment and money transfer system in Kenya. It allows users to store money on their mobile phones in an electronic account and deposit or withdraw money in the form of hard currency at one of M-PESA's numerous agent locations. By March 2011, M-PESA reached over 13.8 million registered users (over one-third of Kenya's population) through 27,000 M-PESA agents throughout the country. Safaricom has also built a low-cost payment platform in M-PESA which is allowing users to meet an ever-broader array of their payment and savings needs.

Little information exists, however, on the recent initiatives that utilize the M-PESA platform to facilitate delivery of necessary services. In particular, what is the current role of M-PESA in facilitating access to health services in Kenya and what potential exists for the M-PESA platform to increase access to health care?

IRIS conducted a study which addressed the above issues using inductive methods to gather primarily qualitative information and a limited amount of quantitative data. The study was conducted over two rounds between September - December of 2009 and April - June of 2010 through focus group discussions, case studies, and key informant interviews in Kibera in Nairobi; Murang'a District in Central Province and Kitui District in Eastern Province. Study findings and additional literature related to M-PESA's use in the acquisition of health services are discussed below.

Read more