Fast forward to the present and M-Paisa – a joint venture between Afghanistan’s biggest telecom provider Roshan and British multi-national Vodafone – has more than 1.2 million subscribers, according to the Afghan Mobile Money Operators Association (AMMOA). And it’s growing at double-digit rates on the strength that 40% of Afghans own mobile phones, according to Citi.
In the eyes of the rest of the world, war-torn Afghanistan is a place with beaten-down infrastructure, the minimum of modern amenities and certainly none of the services made possible by the latest technological advances powering the Internet, financial services and telecommunications.
Surprisingly, however, Afghanistan is on the leading edge of the mobile-money and banking revolution sweeping through developing countries from Kenya to Indonesia. For example, these days it’s not at all unusual to see an Afghan policeman on Kabul’s security cordon, known as the Ring of Steel, checking his Nokia 1101 to verify that his monthly salary has been transferred to his mobile wallet. Then, just as quickly, texting a sum of money to his wife’s mobile phone in rural Afghanistan so she can buy groceries for the family or a new propane tank for the kitchen.
Nothing this slick exists in the U.S. or most other G-7…
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