M-PESA joins taskforce to restrict dirty cash fueling illegal wildlife trade

Written By: Ronald Owili

PHOTO. | Courtesy

Safaricom through its M-PESA Africa arm has committed to curtailing dirty money moving through the service to support illegal wildlife trade in Africa.

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M-PESA now becomes the first mobile money service provider to join Financial Taskforce formed by United for Wildlife which is targeting to eliminate the lucrative illegal trade which is valued at between US$50-US$150 billion annually.

“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,” said Sitoyo Lopokoyit, CEO of M-PESA Africa.

The move is backed by the fact that the service has emerged as Africa’s most popular financial services provider and the continent’s leading financial technology platform with 41.5 million customers across seven African countries who make over 12.2 billion transactions each year.

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“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 Lopokoyit.

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United for Wildlife which was created in 2012 by The Royal Foundation, led by Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge brings together conservation organisations, governments and global corporations to protect endangered species like elephants, rhinos, tigers and pangolins so they can share our world with future generations.

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The global financial system has been identified as a crucial medium used by organized crime to transfer illicit proceeds.

“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.

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.

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There are now 42 signatories to the Declaration including Standard Bank, Barclays, Banco Santander Group, the City of London, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Bank, and JP Morgan Chase. The United for Wildlife Taskforce Information Sharing System underpins much of the action by the taskforce.

Lord William Hague, Chair of United for Wildlife said, “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.”

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