Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Network Effects: the Entrepreneur, the Investor, and the Poor in Bangladesh

Kamal Quadir and Iqbal Quadir are two Bangladeshi brothers, and serial entrepreneurs. Iqbal started the first and now largest cellular company in Bangladesh, GrameenPhone. Kamal built a successful technology company in Bangladesh, CellBazaar, which provides a virtual marketplace trading platform on mobile phones. Following these successes, the brothers created the vision for a mobile payments company called bKash that could become one of the first of its kind globally to offer a major interoperable mobile payments service that is managed by neither a mobile operator nor a ban

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Financial Innovation with a Solar Twist

For many poor families in Kenya, the cost of kerosene to provide power in the home is a significant part of their budget. M-KOPA, started in Kenya in 2011, is a new way to supply safe light and power, offering off-grid customers better energy at lower cost. On its face, M-KOPA offers a solar-powered kit that includes three lights, a radio, and a mobile phone charger that helps rural families reduce expenditures on fuel for lighting and communication. But M-KOPA is not really a “solar company”, or rather is much more than that. Though its product is solar energy, the real innovation that it provides is a financial solution that enables low-income families to acquire a valuable asset on a pay as you go basis.

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Is there Revenue Potential by Shifting Cash to Digital in Africa?

The Gallup data show that, currently, an average of 54 percent of adults in sub-Saharan Africa make one or more long-distance payments in a given month, totaling approximately five billion transactions annually. The total volume of these flows is roughly $760 billion, and conservatively 50 to 60 percent of the transactions are in cash (its likely closer to 70-80%). With a conservative estimate of revenues at 2 percent of volume, this results in annual revenues of about $6.6 billion from electronic payments.

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Is Cash the Enemy of the Poor?

While cash will most likely have a role in developing economies for many years to come, there is emerging evidence that connecting poor people to digital payment systems can help them get and stay out of poverty

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The Hardest Workers

When I returned to work in Seattle following my trip to Kenya and Ghana, I was filled with tremendous optimism, mostly due to one fact: While we here at the foundation might be working hard to help lift people out of poverty, the poor are working harder.

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