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Kenya: competition heats up in mobile payment space

By , ITWeb
Kenya , 05 Nov 2014

Kenya: competition heats up in mobile payment space

Safaricom released its half year financial report yesterday, showcasing that it is still the most profitable communications company in the East African region. The company also unveiled its plan to counter any competition in the mobile payment sector.

The company posted a 14.6% revenue growth to post Kshs 79 billion ($88 million) in the period between April and September this year.

The company had increased revenues from all its sectors as compared to the previous half year results. One area that the new service by Equity Bank, Equitel is aiming to interrupt is the M-Pesa service. Safaricom reported a 24.7% revenue increase in M-Pesa transactions.

The M-Shwari service, M-Pesa's banking arm has seen great growth after the company launched a mobile savings plan on the M-shwari product named, Lock Box.

"To further support our strategy of deepening financial inclusion, we launched the Lock Box service in the M-shwari platform which enables M-Shwari customers to save their money as a fixed deposit and earn higher rates of interest," the company said.

"This is in addition to the existing M-Shwari product which has seen a 96% growth of 30 day active customers to 4.5 million, with net deposits of Kshs 4.1bn ($4.5 million) and borrowings of Kshs 1.6bn ($1.7 million), while maintaining the Non-Performing Loans at 2.2%."

In their report the company is hoping to increase the "Lipa Na M-Pesa", M-Pesa's merchant payment system, in a bid to capture a bigger market share and lock out impending competition.

"Following the strategic direction to grow payments via M-Pesa we have seen the number of recruited and active merchants continue to grow. By end September 2014, retail payments had surpassed Kshs 6.6bn per month (from over 32,000 30 day active merchants and over 690 distributors)," Safaricom reported.

"In addition, payments via M-PESA from customers to business also grew by 45% to close at Kshs 16bn per month. This translates to all Lipa Na M-PESA payments exceeding Kshs 23bn per month."

Safaricom aims to also rope in more supermarket outlets to use the merchant service. The company aims to have 600 tier 1 and 2 supermarkets in their programme.

"Today we have over 105 stores integrated with the rest on course to be completed by 31st March 2015. Of the 105 stores integrated 50% are tier 1 supermarkets. The integration is fully supported jointly with our partners to reduce barrier to entry."

Once the integration with supermarkets is done, the plans are to expand to other sectors such as such as hotels, restaurants and targeted SMEs.

Danson Njue, research analyst at Ovum in Kenya said that it is premature to accurately evaluate the impact of Equitel.

"Looking at the market and considering the strategies that Safaricom has now, and has had before, they are a strong force to be reckoned with... any new player will have to innovate."

He added that customers are not only concerned about pricing, they also want value for money.

Njue spoke of the successful track record that M-Pesa has had since inception.

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