Trading floor of the future

MOBILE money is ubiquitous in Kenya. Someone tapping on their phone might be paying school fees, sending money home or donating to a church. Soon they might be trading bonds. On June 30th the Kenyan government was due to launch M-Akiba, the world’s first sovereign bond to be sold exclusively through mobile platforms.

The bond is marketed at small investors, who will not need a bank account to take part. They can register on their phone in a few minutes and invest as little as 3,000 shillings ($29), far less than the 50,000 shillings needed to buy other treasury bonds. “Akiba” means savings in Kiswahili. The government is keen to promote thrift and is offering a juicy 10% annual return on the three-year bond, about three percentage points above deposit rates at commercial banks. Coupon payments are made through mobile money.

A pilot offer in March lured over 100,000 people to register. But only 5,692 of them went on...Continue reading