How One Bank Changed a Nation

A Case Study of Commercial Bank of Africa’s M-Shwari Initiative
by Bob Meara, June 17, 2014


Beyond M-PESA is M-Shwari, a 100% mobile, 100% STP mobile banking platform for the Kenyan mass market. In its first year, M-Shwari added nearly 6 million customers — dramatically improving financial inclusion for an entire nation.

M-PESA is likely the most well known and most successful mobile money transfer service in the world. Yet, few know the story of M-Shwari, the collaboration between Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) and Safaricom to extend M-PESA beyond mobile money transfer to a full-function mobile banking service for the Kenyan mass market.

In the report How One Bank Changed a Nation: A Case Study of Commercial Bank of Africa’s M-Shwari Initiative, Celent documents how M-Shwari was conceived, how CBA quickly built the platform to achieve first-mover advantage, and how it taught a nation to save money when no formal bank savings or lending facilities had ever been available to the Kenyan mass market.

Source: Commercial Bank of Africa

"Although M-Shwari was inspired by conditions unique to the Kenyan market, Celent considers it a masterful execution that should inform mobile payments initiatives in other markets,” says Bob Meara, Senior Analyst and author of the report. “CBA’s M-Shwari initiative represents both a terrific advancement in financial inclusion for Kenya and an impressive growth story for the bank.”

This report begins with an overview of Kenya and the much lauded M-PESA mobile money transfer service. The report then details the making of M-Shwari, how it built on the success of M-PESA, the project team, underlying technology, and product positioning and launch. The dramatic year one results are then presented alongside implications for financial institutions seeking to differentiate and make an impact.

Celent is a research and advisory firm dedicated to helping financial institutions formulate comprehensive business and technology strategies. Celent publishes reports identifying trends and best practices in financial services technology and conducts consulting engagements for financial institutions looking to use technology to enhance existing business processes or launch new business strategies. With a team of internationally based analysts, Celent is uniquely positioned to offer strategic advice and market insights on a global basis. Celent is a member of the Oliver Wyman Group, which is a wholly-owned operating unit of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC].

Media Contacts

North America
Michele Pace
Tel: +1 212 345 1366

Europe (London)
Chris Williams
Tel: +44 (0)782 448 3336

Asia (Tokyo)
Yumi Nagaoka
Tel.: +81 3 3500 3023

Table of Contents

Executive Summary


Background: Kenya and M-PESA



Kenya at a Glance



The Kenyan Financial Services Landscape



M-PESA and Its Impact


The Making of M-Shwari



Building on the Success of M-PESA



Making It Happen



Marketing M-Shwari






Leveraging Celent’s Expertise



Support for Financial Institutions



Support for Vendors


Related Celent Research


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