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Central Bank of Kenya negotiates lower bank and telco charges

By Macharia Kamau | March 17th 2020
CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge (PHOTO: File)

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has brokered a deal with payment service providers to jointly facilitate increased use of mobile money transfers instead of cash transactions.

The move is aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus which has evoked fear across the population since the first case in Kenya was reported last week.

“While the immediate objective is to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 (coronavirus) by handling bank notes, this will also reduce the use of cash in the economy over the medium term,” CBK said in a statement yesterday.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious disease has caused widespread panic, with governments embarking on a raft of measures to combat spread of the disease.

Around 175, 000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus globally, with slightly under 7,000 deaths reported.

The Central Bank announced that the deal would run up to June 30, with some charges waived to support the initiative as the coronavirus pandemic escalates.

Safaricom acknowledged their approval of the deal by announcing that charges for person-to-person transfer of amounts below Sh1,000 will be waived.

Daily M-Pesa transaction limit has been increased from Sh70,000 to Sh150,000.

The move will support small and micro business enterprises, said the telco.

Further, the daily limit for mobile money transactions has also been increased to Sh300,000 - up from the current M-Pesa limit of Sh140,000.

The wallet limit will also be capped at Sh300,000.

CBK also announced that the current tariff for mobile money transactions for Sh70,000 will apply for transactions up to Sh150,000.

Safaricom also announced that they will be establishing a toll-free line that will be used by subscribers from all networks as they give Kenyans a quick way to alert relevant authorities of emergency coronavirus cases.

“Safaricom is also working with the government by providing a call centre and integrating a toll-free line 719 which has been set up by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus to support Kenyans in understanding how to prevent and manage suspected cases,” said the telco in a statement yesterday.

“We have also interconnected other networks to ensure that their subscribers can access the Call Centre. All calls to 719 are free.”

The meeting between the lender and the payment service providers followed a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to have financial entities lower their charges to ease mobile cash transactions.

The move is expected to combat the spread of the virus and enable people, whose movements should be more restricted following directives by health experts and the government, to transact without the need for excess physical mobility.

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