mobile money
mobile money

Kenyans are enjoying seamless transfer of money from one mobile network to another following the launch of interoperability service.

The service that commenced about a month ago is becoming a game-changer in the sector where billions of dollars are moved annually.

Leading telecom Safaricom and Airtel started the interoperability service to enable subscribers easily send and receive money from their networks.

Initially, the transfer of funds across networks was not only a complex process but also costly and subscribers were inconvenienced.

“Sometimes money transferred for instance from Airtel to Safaricom would not reflect directly into one’s account due to lack of connection between the platforms. It was cumbersome because one would not know if the transfer has been effected,” Moses Mutua, who runs a clothes and shoes shop in Nairobi, said on Thursday.

Besides that, market leader Safaricom was charging premium fees to allow subscribers send or receive money from Airtel. Airtel, on the other hand, was offering lower charges in bid to woo customers.
The restrictions were one of the reasons many Kenyans owned multiple SIM cards, some up to four.

“Two years ago, I forced all my seven farm workers in Migori to have Safaricom lines so that it is easier for me to pay them. But that would not have been the case if we had the seamless transfer of money. I am happy the service is there now,” said Don Onyango, a governance specialist in Nairobi.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru noted that one of the key reasons Kenya went for interoperability was to make sure that people are not limited by a closed network and increase competition among players.

Interoperability, according to the Communication Authority, would also help resolve the long-standing debate of dominance of market by one player, Safaricom.

“The objective is to make sure that the customer gets the most benefit, helping to boost financial inclusion,” said Central Bank of Kenya governor Patrick Njoroge as he strongly backed the interoperability system.

Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi, termed the service as a big boost to mobile money use in the East African nation.

“Interoperability will over time improve customer experience and expand financial inclusion as people will be able to be served by agents from any network while increasing agency transaction. Definitely where there are no restrictions, people interact more and this should be the case with mobile money in this new era,” he said.

However, he noted that with the bulk of mobile money subscriptions on Safaricom network, which controls 80 percent of the market, uptake of the service may not be faster.

“Airtel must work harder to attract people to its network perhaps by lowering charges for it to benefit from the service otherwise people would not have any reason to send money to its network when the numbers favor Safaricom,” he said.

He isolated ownership of multiple SIM cards by subscribers as another threat to the service.

“This phenomenon in Kenya is what killed SIM card porting in Kenya because people saw no reason to port, get charged 2 U.S. dollars when they could acquire another line at 0.2 dollars,” he noted.

Kenyans transacted a record 36 billion dollars on mobile phones in 2017, up from 33 billion dollars in 2016. Enditem

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