Mobile phone users to enjoy seamless transfer, receipt of money across Safaricom and Airtel networks
Steve Umidha @steveumidha
Inconvenience of sending money across mobile networks is set to become a thing of the past starting today as telco giants, Safaricom and Airtel Kenya commence cross- network money transfer service.
Mobile phone users will from today be able to transfer and receive money across the two networks following a successful pilot interoperability over a two-month period.
Telkom, which relaunched its cash transfer service under the T-Kash brand will, however, join at a later stage. The system is, for instance, expected to allow an M-Pesa customer to send money, which will be reflected in real time in the recipient’s Airtel Money account.
In a joint statement, the three mobile operators said the platform will advance financial inclusion in the country with customers set to enjoy convenience while transferring money via mobile phones.
“Implementation of interoperability will drive financial inclusion and more importantly empower the customer through a more integrated mobile money ecosystem,” reads the joint statement.
Consumers have previously complained of costly and highly tedious processes of sending money across networks with the procedure often tilted in Safaricom’s favour owing to huge transactions tariffs set by the operator.
Customers faced a lot of hassles to transfer and deposit money sent to them from a different network. Ordinarily a customer would be notified through an SMS from another mobile network that money had been sent. They would then have to look for an agent of the network from which the money was sent to withdraw and then deposit into their wallets, a process that equally had time limits.
This system has been disadvantageous for those who received cash from a network with fewer agents across the country, making it difficult and tedious to make withdrawals. Interoperability platform is also expected to solve part of the bigger industry concern – market dominance by Safaricom – which Airtel Kenya and other smaller players have consistently protested.
The operators said the dominant situation undermined their businesses and that the market needed to be fully levelled to accommodate all players regardless of their financial strength.
Airtel expressed happiness that its customers will finally be able to send money from their wallets directly into recipients’ wallets in other networks and similarly receive funds into their wallets from other networks.
“This will allow them to then use the funds to carry out transactions of their choice,” it said in an email response yesterday. However, the firm was non-committal on whether such a move would in any way address its concerns on unevenness in the market.
The new platform is as a result of recommendations by British firm, MS Analysys Mason. The seamless sending and receiving of money coincides with remarkable growth in the telecoms industry since the evolution of mobile money transfer.
Communications Authority of Kenya data shows that the country’s current mobile money subscriptions stands at over Sh25million. During the first quarter of the financial year 2017/18 the number of mobile subscriptions stood at 41 million up from 40.2 million reported in the preceding quarter, representing a growth of 1.9 per cent over the period.
The number of active mobile money transfer subscriptions and registered agents stood at 28.1 million and 184,537 respectively during the period. A total of 537.2 million transactions (sending and withdrawals) were made during the period valued at Sh1.65 trillion.
Mobile commerce transactions which include Customer-to-Business (C2B) Business-to-Customer (B2C)and Business-to-Business (B2B) stood at 352.4 million and were valued at Sh714.3 billion, while Person-to-Person (P2P) transfers amounted to Sh544.1 billion.