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Confirmed! No more drab M-Pesa messages

By Peter Theuri | October 25th 2021

M-Pesa signage at a Safaricom shop along Banda Street, Nairobi. February 2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

“This is to keep your pockets warm,” reads part of an M-Pesa message this writer received on his phone recently.

He could have been forgiven for thinking it was from one of those scammers from Kamiti Prison. Far from it.

It’s thanks to a new feature on the M-Pesa app that allows users to personalise their messages while sending money to their contacts, for instance letting them know what they think of them or what the money is for.

It also allows users to add emojis and GIFs in what Safaricom says improves user experience.

“The new M-Pesa app is a lifestyle super-app for Kenyans,” said M-Pesa Africa Managing Director Sitoyo Lopokoiyit.

“M-Pesa is there assisting users ever so silently and following on their life cycles so that whenever they need a financial transaction, it is available,” he added.

Mr Lopokoiyit said the M-Pesa app’s message customisation service helps users keep a record of their transactions in an orderly way, unlike the conventional menu on the SIM toolkit option.

“This is especially so for the micro-business enterprises from which many small purchases are made through M-Pesa. They can now track expenditure by seeing what message they attached to what transaction,” he said.

The new feature also relays an emotion, where someone can attach a message to express their feelings, discomfort or happiness when sending money for a certain purpose, such as for weddings, medical bills or funeral expenses. “The customisation is not only for financial purposes; it is also for emotional purposes and for fun,” said Lopokoiyit.

“We are making M-Pesa more than just about sending money.”

The option is currently available to smartphone users, but Safaricom plans to introduce it to non-smartphone users in due course. 

M-Pesa mobile interface. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The app also allows one to request money from another M-Pesa user, which can also be accompanied by a customised message. The M-Pesa app also solves the problem of users having to delete part of their M-Pesa messages to hide their available balance.

“We have noted that many people have to delete their available balances when sharing messages to show proof of transaction. In the app, we have truncated that balance part so that if you are sharing the evidence, your balance does not appear,” said Lopokoiyit.

The app also reduces the chances of sending money to the wrong person. The name of the recipient is displayed before the sender completes the transaction.

According to Safaricom, the app currently has over 3.9 million users.

Lopokoiyit said they target to upscale the number to 10 million in the next few months.

He said it is hoped that the app would accommodate many businesses to allow customers to pay from one platform.

Lopokoiyit said Safaricom plans to convince large corporates that use M-Pesa to integrate the app with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like SAP to facilitate tasks like payroll and, in the future, inventory management.

“We’ve taken all the things an individual can do through M-Pesa - paying KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority), NHIF (National Hospital Insurance Fund), Kenya Power - and mapped all this into the business till,” he said.

“We want to create a lifestyle around it. We want these mini-programmes to be available for all users and the app to be rolled out in all the seven countries in which we operate.”

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