Safaricom, Airtel to pilot mobile money interoperability on Monday

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The CS Ministry of ICT Joe Mucheru addressing the press during a press conference at the MICT offices. With him is the CS Ministry of Treasury Henry Rotich.
The CS Ministry of ICT Joe Mucheru addressing the press during a press conference at the MICT offices. With him is the CS Ministry of Treasury Henry Rotich.

Safaricom and Airtel will test mobile money interoperability on Monday 22nd January, awaiting the full roll-out in March. This is weeks before Telkom Kenya’s mobile money system comes on board in mid-February.

This was announced today by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Joe Mucheru,  during a stakeholders meeting on mobile financial services interoperability held at Ministry of Information Communications and Technology (MOICT) Headquarters at Teleposta House, Nairobi.

The mobile money interoperability move will allow users to transfer money across networks with a long-term objective of ensuring enhanced service provision for this platform-mediated network business.

This simply means that one will be able to send money from their M-Pesa account to an Airtel Money user, who will receive the money in their mobile wallet and withdraw it from an Airtel Money agent.

“This new chapter in mobile financial services transfer platforms through the pilot exercise on interoperability is part of the sector competition growth. We are considering ways that will ensure citizens get the best services,” said Mucheru “Mobile Money interoperability was one of the key areas we were looking at. We now have conversations going on in areas of national roaming, tower sharing and pricing of services and accounting methodologies that go towards facilitating service affordability,” said CS Mucheru.

He added, “These conversations will continue even across the region. Our heads of states have requested that they see mobile money interoperability also happen across the East African region. Kenya decided to do this first and this will be a stepping stone for mobile money interoperability across the region.”

CS Mucheru equally called upon the mobile network operators to popularize interoperability and also ensure that services for Kenyans remain accessible and affordable.  He encouraged all service providers, apart from the MNOs to also consider linking up their mobile services platforms in order to deepen financial inclusion without compromising convenience to consumers.

“We anticipate that the pilot will give us satisfactory results and that Kenyans will enjoy the new services once they are launched. It is expected that the operators and businesses will make mobile financial services more relevant and appealing to consumers than it has ever been,” he said.

Telkom Kenya to launch mobile platform in February

Speaking at the same event, Telkom Kenya, CEO Mr. Aldo Mareuse said the revamped Telkom Kenya Mobile Platform will be rolled out in mid-February this year.

He added that the platform was ready and in its final stages.

“We are currently piloting the platform internally as we wait for CBK to issue us with the commercial license,” he concluded.

Sector Statistics

Globally, Kenya is a leader in the mobile money services area since the launch of M-PESA in 2007. According to the latest statistics by Communications Authority of Kenya, there are currently 28.2 million mobile money subscribers.

Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform has the largest share, with 22.8 million subscribers, or 80 per cent market share. Equitel, run by Equity Bank’s Finserve, is a distant second with 6.8 per cent share (1.9 million), while Mobikash has a 6.3 per cent share (1.77 million).

Airtel through their Airtel Money platform holds a 5.8 per cent market share with 1.6 million customers. Telkom Kenya, has yet to establish its own service after shutting down Orange Money, which it said it would revamp.

The latest data by CA also shows Kenyans transacted Sh1.65 trillion during the three months to September 2017, compared to Sh1.08 trillion transacted over a similar period in 2016.

Implementing interoperability comes at a time when a dominance report by Analysys Mason, which was commissioned by CA but is yet to be published. The report wanted M-Pesa to be separated from Safaricom and infrastructure to be shared to enable operators to reach areas where they do not have masts.

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