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M-PESA has announced today that they joined the Wildlife Financial Task Force. This makes them the first mobile money provider in Africa to join the Taskforce, which was established by United for Wildlife, a coalition of charities that works to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

M-Pesa mobile money system is Africa’s most popular financial services provider. The platform 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.

Lord William Hague, Chair of United for Wildlife noted: “The illegal wildlife trade is a global crisis and financial institutions have a crucial role to play in the fight against it. United for Wildlife welcomes M-Pesa to further strengthen the links between financial institutions and law enforcement  in order to combat the trafficking of illegal wildlife products.”

“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, ” said M-Pesa Africa CEO Sitoyo Lopokoyit.

Lopokoyit added: “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.”

Organised crime

Both organisations highlighted organised crime as one of the greatest threats to animals in Africa and other continents. The illegal wildlife trade is valued between US$50-US$150 billion per year and is one of the five most lucrative global crimes. There is consensus that the global financial system is a crucial medium for the transfer of illicit proceeds, the media statement said.

The coronavirus pandemic also 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, they said.

The pandemic also brought the public health risks of the illegal wildlife trade into sharp focus.

“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 human - such as Covid-19 and Ebola,” said Kate Bedwell, head of governance, risk and compliance for M-Pesa.

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