M-PESA, which was developed in association with Vodafone and commercially launched in Kenya in March 2007, won the Habitat Business Award at a ceremony held in New Delhi, India last week.
Safaricom was awarded for its M-PESA service which judges noted clearly demonstrated the role and impact of innovative IT solutions for sustainable urbanization.
The Habitat Business Award for sustainable urbanization, which is organized by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), aims to recognize and publicize outstanding achievements contributing to sustainable urbanization through responsible corporate practices.
This is the first time the awards are being held.
Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph said the M-PESA service had become a welcome necessity to millions of Kenyans who have no access to banking facilities in the country.
"We are delighted by this recognition. M-PESA continues to impact positively on the millions of Kenyans who traditionally have no access to banking services. We have and will continuously innovate to stretch the product's menu beyond cash transfer," he said.
An acclaimed global first, Safaricom launched M-PESA in March 2007 and the service continues to register steady growth with more than 10,000 new users being registered daily.
The service has more than 6.7 million registered users and has moved Sh152 billion since launch.
Speaking at the award ceremony, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said given the recognized tremendous contribution of the private sector to urban shelter and basic infrastructures, cooperation with the private sector is increasingly seen as a necessity and not an option.
Judges said the M-PESA money transfer service showed the diverse ways a mobile phone could be engaged to serve, not only for voice and data purposes, but also as a money transfer tool.
The service allows Kenyans to transfer money fast, safely and affordably using the mobile phone. Through M-PESA, a customer can send money to another mobile phone user, withdraw cash, buy airtime for themselves or another prepaid subscriber, pay bills and make loan repayments.
The judges further noted that even in uncertain economic times, mobile telephony is seeing continued growth, with more than 4 billion mobile connections globally driven by innovation in new services, applications and richer mobile content.
M-PESA boasts a crowded trophy cabinet. Its past awards include Kenya Banking Awards for product innovation won last year. In the same year, it bagged the Global Mobile Awards and was feted during the World Business and Development Awards for contribution to the attainment of Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) through core business.