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M-Pesa Becomes First African FinTech to Join United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce

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M-Pesa has revealed that it is the first mobile money provider in Africa to join the Financial Taskforce established by United for Wildlife, a coalition of charities that works to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

The M-Pesa mobile money system has become Africa’s most popular financial services provider and the continent’s leading financial technology platform. M-Pesa is actively used by 41.5 million customers across seven African countries who make over 12.2 billion transactions per annum. The platform also enables individuals and businesses to pay bills, create savings and loan accounts and to access overdraft facilities, commercial services and healthcare.

“The environment remains a critical, shared communal resource and has been under threat from the illegal trade of wildlife. The future of our economy, families and children, therefore, depends on protecting our wildlife and our natural ecosystems,” says Sitoyo Lopokoyit, CEO of M-Pesa Africa.

Vodacom Group International Markets Chief Officer, Diego Gutierrez adds “Financial institutions, together with the broader private sector, have a responsibility to do whatever is within their collective power to help preserve the world’s natural heritage by combating illicit funds from the illegal wildlife trade. Through M-Pesa, the Vodacom Group is pleased to join forces with various other signatories to support the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce.”

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The pandemic though has had a significant impact on Africa’s tourism industry which has had a knock-on effect on the conservation sector. It will be many months, perhaps even years, before African countries are able to recover the revenue lost because of global travel restrictions.

Yet this has also brought the public health risks of the illegal wildlife trade into sharp focus. Kate Bedwell, Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance for M-Pesa, explained that “criminal activity not only endangers animals and threatens the security of rangers but also contributes to the spread of zoonotic diseases – infections caused by a pathogen that has jumped from animal to humans – such as COVID-19 and Ebola.”

United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce was established in 2018 via a Declaration signed at Mansion House in London. The Declaration commits signatories to use financial intelligence and resources to support law enforcement efforts to pursue the illegal wildlife trade’s greatest beneficiaries.

Lopokoyit concludes, “M-Pesa will play a critical role in the mission to stop the illegal wildlife trade by ensuring that there are no illegal funds going through our platform to support or to help this illegal activity.”

Edited by Jenna Delport

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