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Nick Hughes: Meet the Little Known Founder Of M-Pesa and Mkopa Solar

Nick Hughes acquired a PhD in Applied Sciences in 1991 from Loughborough University. He later joined the London Business School where he graduated in 2001 with a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

He joined Vodafone as an Executive Global CR. He was responsible of setting up the CR team at Vodafone from scratch and establishing programmes and policies across the Vodafone footprint.

In 2004 he became the head of Social Innovation in the company and was accredited with establishing a multimillion social innovation fund targeting mobile applications that deliver commercial and ‘social’ innovation. In 2005, he got a promotion as head of Mobile Payment Solutions at Vodafone.

He led a team that took “M-PESA from concept to scale, a mobile money project that has revolutionized the life of millions of Africans since it launched in 2007” reads an introduction to an interview he granted leadersleague.com

Nick Hughes got the idea of M-pesa in 2003 and his proposal on delivery of financial services over mobile phone was well received. In 2005, he got a Ksh140 million funding from UK’s Department for International Development which was matched by Vodafone in both staff time and cash.

To manage the project on the ground, Nick engaged Susie Lonie who worked with Vodafone in Europe. Susie arrived in Kenya in 2005 for a three month pilot program assignment to improve the efficiency of micro-finance loan repayments.

M-pesa was then officially launched in 2007 and the rest as they say is history. Today, Mpesa has expanded to Mozambique, Tanzania, Ghana, Egypt, DRC, Lesotho, Afghanistan and South Africa. M-pesa has entrenched its dominance in Africa processing deals worth Ksh 43.3 trillion in 12 months that ended in September 2022.

Nick Hughes left Vodafone in 2009 after a successful career stint of 8 years and 1 month at the company. In September2009, he joined Signal Point in London, United Kingdom as a Partner.

Signal Point is an advisory and investment business focused on m-commerce opportunities in emerging markets. The company has created two new, independent businesses, MeraDoctor – mobile health services, based in Mumbai, India and M-Kopa – a M2M clean energy business based in Nairobi, Kenya.

In August 2011, Nick Hughes co-founded M-Kopa solar together with Jesse Moore who is the CEO. M-Kopa solar is a Kenyan start-up providing clean energy solutions available to consumers on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This innovative service uses embedded machine-to-machine mobile technology coupled with micro-payments to bring previously unaffordable, clean energy to the vast number of people who live off power grid but are connected with a mobile phone.

Today, the company has 6 global offices, employed over 1,000 people and has a customer base of over 1 million people. He left the company in March 2022 to pursue other interests.

In May 2022, Nick founded 4R Digital Limited where he serves as the managing director. 4R Digital is a B2B services company that works with clients and partners to incubate new digital business models, products and services.

Nick has retained a small number of advisory roles. He is a founding Board Member of BKash, a mobile payments business in Bangladesh that is picking up very well. He is also an Executive Fellow at London Business School working with the Wheeler Institute for Business & Development on digital innovation.

Nick was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to ‘Innovation in Africa’ (Queens Birthday Honors List). He is also a winner of the Economist Innovation Award in 2010 for his work on M-Pesa.

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