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Paying for airline tickets with a cellphone, in Kenya

Daily Nation: – Business News |Air travellers to buy tickets via M-Pesa.

There’s no shortage of bad news in Africa, including a drought in East Africa, rampant violence, authoritarian rulers repressing various citizen initiatives. But alongside such calamities, and sometimes because of them, really interesting new technological developments keep popping up. For a while now, the ability to use mobile phones to pay for all sorts of expenses in Kenya has gained global notoriety. More recently, one airline –Fly540 — announced that it would allow passengers to pay for the airline tickets directly from their M-Pesa (Safaricom) accounts.

I will be curious to see how this works out with all the travel-related security restrictions, because the background checks on phone ownership and M-Pesa accounts seem weaker than for credit cards. But the development promises to relax the grip of the credit card companies, and is likely to provide greater opportunities for people with lower incomes to travel by air.

Maybe one day this really neat and convenient technology will trickle down to the U.S…

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.


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