Plans to split Safaricom, Airtel could start in January, says CBK

Members of the public line up outside a Safaricom shop along Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi, December 2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) says it will back legal efforts to compel Safaricom, Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya to split their telecommunications businesses from mobile money transfer and lending units.

CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge said on Monday a road map for the split of the telcos' business units could be in place by January next year.

"We want to be sure that those sorts of issues are dealt with," said Dr Njoroge in response to a question on the planned reforms from Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie during an induction meeting for MPs in Nairobi.

"To secure the operations on the money side... we are now much further ahead in this thing, hopefully before the end of the year but definitely by January," he said.

Past legal attempts have failed amid mounting concerns that Safaricom has become too big through its dominant market share in voice, mobile data, and mobile money.

The new Kenya Kwanza administration had earlier committed to effecting split Safaricom into several stand-alone business units.

"Effective immediately after forming the government, the administration will seek the break-up of Safaricom Ltd into two distinct and separate business entities with a mobile telecommunications institution under the direct jurisdiction of the Communications Authority and the financial institution firmly under the jurisdiction of the Central Bank of Kenya" reads part of the Kenya Kwanza coalition's manifesto.

Safaricom has consistently rejected the accusations of dominance amid repeated parliamentary petitions for a probe into alleged market abuse by rivals.

Our attempt to get a comment from Safaricom did not bear fruit as the telco had not got back to us by the time of going to press.

Currently, Safaricom controls about 65 per cent market share in voice services.

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