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Experts concerned over recurring downtime with M-Pesa

Kenya , 27 Mar 2020
Safaricom’s dominance within Kenya's mobile money market represents a challenge, according to analysts.
Safaricom’s dominance within Kenya's mobile money market represents a challenge, according to analysts.

While the Kenya government has urged citizens to adopt cashless transactions to limit person-to-person contact amid the Coronavirus outbreak, experts have raised concern over downtime experienced by service providers.

In November 2019 the Communications Authority of Kenya ordered a probe into downtime with M-Pesa.

Safaricom experienced downtime again on 2 March 2020, with users not able to access the service.

Local telecommunications expert Tom Makau told ITWeb Africa that Safaricom’s dominance in the mobile money market means that most businesses could be stuck in the event of downtime.

“In the long run, the government needs to further level the playing ground on the mobile money front by removing barriers to entry for new competition. This can be done by putting in place policies and regulations that will enhance this,” said Makau.

He added: “Previous attempts such as mobile money interoperability have not worked because interoperability solved an end user access problem and not platform access. What should happen is that money in your mobile money wallet should be accessible via any mobile network. I should be able to pay for a service via Airtel using money I deposited via M-Pesa into my mobile wallet.”

M-Pesa currently has 88% market share, with 27 million 30-day active customers.

As of January 2020, the total combined value of mobile money transactions from all operators stood at Kshs 371.9 billion, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.

Makau supports the issuing of quality of service (QoS) fines to telecom companies to ensure that service availability and quality metrics are met.

He said the government can go a step further and declare mobile money platforms critical infrastructure which will subject the service to closer scrutiny of QoS and other metrics.

He advised businesses and individuals to diversify their mobile money channels to avoid interruption in case one service is unavailable.

Safaricom declined to comment.

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