Safaricom to open Pay Bill to rivals

Safaricom signage at the I&M Building along Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Safaricom is set to open up its M-Pesa Pay Bill platform to rivals Airtel and Telkom, giving the telcos a potential lifeline to grow their fledgling mobile money businesses.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will today lead the launch of the interoperable platform that will allow Airtel and Telkom customers to make payments to businesses, government and utility service providers through their respective mobile wallets.

The launch comes a few months after the three mobile network operators launched interoperability on merchant payments as part of a drive by the CBK to expand the ecosystem.

An Airtel shop along Koinange Street in Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

This gave Airtel and Telkom customers access to more than 400,000 Lipa na M-Pesa tills on Safaricom's network, potentially boosting the two telcos' revenues from mobile payment services.

"We have opened up the area of interoperability, allowing Kenyans to make mobile payments through Lipa na M-Pesa to an M-Pesa Buy Goods Till from any network," said Safaricom in its annual report for the year ended March 2022. 

"This proposition is in line with the principles of the National Payments Strategy, 2022-25 launched by the CBK in February 2022."

According to the CBK, the National Payments Strategy aims to create an ecosystem that is secure, efficient, innovative and competitive to the users. 

Telkom shop at the CBD in Nairobi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Latest data from industry regulator CA indicates that the value of customer-to-business transfers stood at Sh1.3 trillion in the three months ended March 2022.

This is while business-to-business transfers stood at Sh2.2 trillion with M-Pesa accounting for 99 per cent of the transactions.

Last year, Airtel urged CBK to make merchant and mobile money agent interoperability compulsory as one of the measures to ensure a level playing field in the sector. 

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