> Posted by Center Staff

Last week Safaricom, one of the Kenya-based mobile network operators (MNOs) behind the flagship mobile money service M-Pesa launched Zindua Café, an online interactive portal that enables developers to share ideas, prototypes, and applications. In the industry of financial services for clients at the base of the pyramid, the move represents an intriguing arrangement for the development of new and improved services, which can be resource intensive and given little institutional priority. The arrangement works, because Safaricom purports intellectual property and related laws will be protected as the MNO considers an idea’s potential utility.

Zindua Café is open to external innovators and developers across Kenya. On the portal, Joe Ogutu, Safaricom’s Director of Strategy and Innovation, said, “Over the years we have received numerous proposals from customers on new ideas, products and services. This portal will serve as a central place where those ideas are captured.” As part of the launch, Safaricom held an intellectual property educational forum, where participants received guidance on understanding and monetizing the intellectual property that is their ideas.

M-Pesa in Kenya has over 19 million registered customers, Safaricom reported mid last year. Along with the service’s payment and store of value capabilities, additional products have been released in recent years including M-Shwari, which offers borrowing and saving, and M-Ledger, a smart phone application that provides accounting tools. Although smart phones make up a minority portion of Kenya’s phone market, reducing the reach of certain apps, in 2013 67 percent of the handsets sold by Safaricom were smart phones.