M-Pesa transfer charges: Pressure mounts on Safaricom

Safaricom’s signage at the I&M Building on Muindi Mbingu Street in Nairobi. Picture taken on January 29, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The National Treasury says it will soon make proposals to cut M-Pesa charges on the back of increased debate over the pricing of the service.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said in a presentation before the Senate, without giving details, that the Ministry will soon make proposals to address this.

Yatani had been summoned by the Senate to give a statement on the perceived monopolistic practices by Safaricom.

“Another source of concern with mobile money stems from the perception, both by consumers and small businesses, that the rents from digital technology are unfairly accruing to Safaricom,” said Yatani.

“This is in the area of unconscionable or excessive rates, and Safaricom being a critical trading partner for SMEs and consumers. We will soon be presenting some proposed amendments to deal with this scenario.”

If successful, the move will mark another cut for the telco, which starting January 2021, effected a 45 per cent cut in M-Pesa transaction fees for low-value transaction bands.

Treasury’s statement comes at a time the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has rolled out the national payment system strategy that targets, among other things, a secure, fast, efficient and collaborative payments system.

CBK governor Patrick Njoroge said on March 15 in an address to mark the World Consumer Rights Day that the cost of mobile money transactions has been a cause of concern to consumers, with some of the charges not easily understood by an average customer.

He is now pushing for full interoperability of payment service providers to build on the 2018 move that allowed for sending of money between M-Pesa and Airtel Money.

“The overall aim is to provide customers with seamless, secure and affordable functionality to send and receive money from any financial institution across the payments ecosystem,” said Njoroge.

“I expect consumers will see further steps in this area towards greater interoperability in the next few weeks.”