Safaricom changed micro-financing and brought mobile-phone based money with the launch of M-PESA (“pesa” is Swahili for money) in 2007. The rise of M-PESA is a success story all companies worldwide wish to emulate; it now operates in India, Afghanistan, Tanzania, South Africa and parts of Eastern Europe. It has had a real impact on the society; so much so that government parastatals and corporations use it to transact with citizens. M-PESA has managed to set up the M-PESA Foundation to help bolster the company’s corporate social responsibility profile. The foundation is funded by interest income generated from M-PESA’s multi-billion shilling deposits held by commercial banks. They have recently announced that they will be pioneering an Academy that is set to transform the education standards in the country.
The academy will be on a 50-acre piece of prime land in Thika (roughly 50 km away from the capital city Nairobi) and will cost 3 billion Kenya shillings to complete. This will include the construction of state of the art classrooms, hostels for the students and a conference room. The reason why all eyes are on M-PESA and partners, in relation to this school is because of the fact they have come out strongly and distinguished this from a regular education institution. They have distanced themselves from the traditional methods of learning by employing a “unique approach to teaching,” that will focus on entrepreneurial leadership. Above and beyond all of this it will be based on the ever-popular Starehe Boys School model. This is a very old school which many prominent Kenyan’s have passed through including former Presidential candidate Peter Kenneth. Basically at Starehe model accepts needy but bright students who pay minimal or no fees at all. The whole concept is in line with the Foundation’s philosophy of investing in massive, long term projects in education, environment and health.
There has been a trend among massive corporations in Kenya to assist in the education of bright individuals who do not have the means to educate themselves. Besides Safaricom there is KCB (Kenya Commercial Bank), Equity Bank, and Co-Operative Bank that are working on separate projects to foster education. However none of them are dealing with the numbers that Safaricom is targeting in one specific place; for the first round of admission the academy will be accepting 1000 students.
Safaricom have been led the field in whatever sector they have decided to venture into and it is my honest belief that this Academy will be no different. In the next 10 years if everything goes as planned for Kenya it will be leaders from Academies such as this that will make sure we stay on the right path. Like I always say, there is no point in rising if we don’t know what to do once we get to the top.