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Kenyan Mobile Money Gets Boost in Shift to Seamless Payments

A pedestrian passes retail kiosks offering Safaricom Plc mobile money services in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Revenue from M-Pesa, Safaricom's mobile-money service, is expected to grow after more customers have adopted cashless transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenya’s cellular-phone operators agreed to allow mobile payments across their networks, joining an effort by the central bank to integrate the nation’s payment systems.

The first phase of “merchant interoperability” will enable Airtel Networks Kenya Ltd. and Telkom Kenya Ltd. users to pay for goods through Safaricom Plc’s M-Pesa, the biggest mobile-money platform in the East African country, the three companies said in a statement on Friday.

The next step will allow clients to make payments from Safaricom’s M-Pesa to till numbers on the Airtel Money and Telkom’s T-Kash platforms.

Kenya’s central bank is seeking seamless payments across all systems so clients can send and receive money from any financial institution. Mobile money is widely used in the region’s biggest economy, with transactions carried out at agents jumping to 60% of gross domestic product last year from 23% in 2010.

There were more than 2.2 billion transactions valued at more than 6.9 trillion shillings ($60 billion) in 2021, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.

“We have over 400,000 merchants,” Safaricom Chief Financial Services Officer Sitoyo Lopokoiyit said in an interview. “Over 11 million customers use this service on a monthly basis and 100 billion shillings goes to this service on a monthly basis.”

The move will likely be positive for Safaricom, the country’s biggest company, because more than 90% of mobile-money transactions go through M-Pesa, said Silha Rasugu, associate vice president for utilities, telecommunications, oil and gas at EFG Hermes Kenya.


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