Safaricom includes Airtel, Telkom on its Lipa Na M-Pesa service

Safaricom customer at an M-pesa outlet withdrawing money from M-pesa

Safaricom is continuing to grow its customer base after it announced to include rival networks, Airtel, and Telkom in its Lipa Na M-Pesa cashless payment service.

Telkom and Airtel subscribers will be able to pay for goods and services through Lipa Na M-Pesa.

The shift is aimed at improving financial inclusivity through user convenience in a concept known as interoperability.

It will benefit customers and businesses since they will no longer have to search for consumers or businesses that subscribe to the same service provider in order to obtain or sell services.

Safaricom’s action comes after the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) unveiled the national payments system, paving the way for operators to take cash from competitors for smooth cross-merchant transfers.

In March, the telco reported that businesses operating Lipa na M-Pesa till numbers had doubled from 173,000 in April 2020 to more than 387,000.

“The growth in M-Pesa customer usage has been driven by the launch of various innovations over the years, including financial services such as M-Shwari, KCB M-Pesa and Fuliza,” said Safaricom chief executive Peter Ndegwa.

M-Pesa remains Safaricom’s single largest business line and in the company’s half-year results to September 2021, it earned the firm Ksh.52.3 billion, representing over 37 percent of the revenues during the period.

“M-Pesa now accounts for 37.8 percent of service revenue, reflective of the opportunity for digital financial services to consumers and enterprise customers,” the company said in a statement in November last year.

The development can seemingly be seen as a countermove against the revenue it’s poised to lose after the National Treasury announced it would slash M-Pesa transaction fees.

According to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, the move is keen on making mobile money transactions affordable for Kenyans, who have been reeling from harsh economic times exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic since its advent on March 13, 2020.

“Another source of concern with mobile money stems from the perception both by consumers and small businesses that the rents from digital technology are unfairly accruing to Safaricom Plc,” said Yatani.

In the full year to March 2021, M-Pesa earned Safaricom Ksh.82.6 billion, even though it had waived charges for all transactions below Ksh.1,000.

Kenya accounts for 30 million of the 51 million M-Pesa users across Africa.

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