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Safaricom bets on local servers to revamp M-Pesa

By Frankline Sunday | April 16th 2015

Kenya: Safaricom’s new M-Pesa platform will go live by the end of this month, raising the stakes in the battle to dominate Kenya’s lucrative mobile money industry.

The new system which will see M-Pesa servers relocated from Germany where they were previously hosted, to Kenya, will allow Safaricom to grow its financial product offering through new upgrades and better functionality.

“Previously, we used to have speeds of up to 450 transactions per second but with the new platform we will do 900 transactions per second,” said Safaricom’s General Manager for Financial Services Betty Mwangi.

Safaricom has been upgrading its M-pesa platform since 2013 in partnership with IT infrastructure giants IBM and Huawei and the company now says the system is ready for deployment. “We are talking faster and more secure transactions and we have ensured we have invested in the latest software and hardware technologies to make this happen,” explained Mwangi.

The new system is further expected to allow the mobile service provider to introduce new services and at the same time increase its integration with partners such as banks and utility companies.

“In the past, the complaints we have received is that the M-Pesa system is a bit rigid, so the upgrade will give developers the opportunity to build support products and services riding on the system so that we can have more functionality coming from this product,” said Mr Safaricom’s head of product development Ken Okwero.

several false starts

Safaricom further says downtimes and delays particularly around holidays and weekends where traffic on the network spikes will be a thing of the past. This is the latest upgrade Safarcom has made on its iconic M-Pesa service since it was launched eight years ago.

The company last year reported more than Sh21.1 billion in pretax profits in the half-year to end-September with a bulk of the growth generated from M-pesa and data usage. The company generated Sh15.6 billion from M-Pesa alone during the same period, an indication of the product’s importance to the region’s largest mobile service provider by subscriber base.

The new upgrade, however, comes at a time when Safaricom is facing an onslaught from an influx into the market of service providers eager to get a slice of the pie.

Key among them is Equity Bank, Kenya’s largest bank by customer base, which earlier last year unveiled a strategy for launching its own Virtual Mobile Money Network, MVNO.

Despite several false starts largely on account of security concerns from Safaricom, Finserve, Equity’s new mobile money subsidiary registered 394,606 new subscribers with on-net traffic of 1.6 million minutes during the first quarter.

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