By Claire West

The Economist recognises Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie for their contributions to mobile money-transfer services.

Mobile money-transfer services have proven a huge success in Kenya and several other developing countries. To mark this fact, The Economist today announces that Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie will jointly receive the Social and Economic award at its forthcoming Innovation Awards ceremony for their outstanding contributions in this field.

Nick Hughes, Managing Director at Signal Point Partners and Susie Lonie, Executive Head of Mobile Payments with Vodacom in South Africa, started a mobile money initiative in Kenya in 2005. This initiative, called M-PESA, was a joint venture between Safaricom, the leading mobile telecommunications company in Kenya, and Vodafone. The M-PESA service allows people to transfer money, pay bills and save using a mobile phone, without a bank account. The service is designed to work on even the most basic handset and is secure, quick and simple to use. The scheme became widely available in Kenya in 2007, has since been deployed in Tanzania and Afghanistan and has recently been launched in South Africa. It has also inspired a host of similar services, in Africa and beyond.

Commenting on the award decision by a panel of independent judges, Tom Standage, Digital Editor at The Economist said,

“Since its launch in early 2007, M-PESA has attracted over 12 million users, or nearly a third of the Kenyan population. M-PESA has changed the way money moves around in Kenya and has made a big difference to many people’s lives, offering them a safe, secure and low-cost way of transferring money, paying bills, receiving wages and running small businesses. By contrast, there are only 750 banking outlets and fewer than five million bank accounts in the entire country. The judges are recognising Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie for their innovative and successful scheme that has great potential to increase financial inclusion and drive economic activity. The reach and influence of their product has been extraordinary, not just within Kenya but also beyond, as operators have been inspired by M-PESA’s success and launched similar services.”

The Innovation Awards ceremony will be held on October 21st 2010 at the Science Museum in London. Now in its ninth year, the awards continue to attract over 200 innovators to the event to meet and celebrate the individuals who are responsible for the successful innovations of the past decade.

The Awards ceremony will be followed by the Innovation Summit on October 22nd, with a programme featuring Lily Lapena of MyBnk, an education charity working with young people to build the knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their money effectively and keynote speaker Matt Ridley, author of “The Rational Optimist” and expounder of the idea that innovation is “ideas having sex”.