Mobile money users in Kenya will soon be able to send and receive money irrespective of which network they are on. Operators have begun testing systems that will soon make the interoperability possible. This means you can send money directly from your M-PESA to AirtelMoney mobile wallet directly. This move is set to reignite hopes that the competitive telecom industry is ready for self-regulation.
In the pilot phase, Safaricom and Airtel will each provide 100 employees beginning today to carry out tests to make sure the systems are ready for mass roll out. While speaking at the launch event in Nairobi, Kenya’s ICT cabinet secretary Joe Mucheru said that the initiative will inject efficiency, increase competition and hopefully bring down the cost of transactions.
The main players in the county, Safaricom’s M-PESA and Airtel’s AirtelMoney will be the first to be tested and to go live. Telkom’s Mobile Money platform that is yet to be launched will then come on board in the second phase in February according to CS Mucheru.
This development could potentially break Safaricom’s monopoly as Safaricom’s products are often way pricey compared to the competition. Subscribers have been forced to stick around and persevere as M-PESA hasn’t had a viable alternative really. AirtelMoney scrapped off transfer fees across networks back in 2012 while Safaricom still charges up to 4 times to transfer off-network as they do to transfer within their network.
At the moment, AirtelMoney subscribers have to visit an M-PESA agent to withdraw money sent to them by M-PESA subscribers, then look for an AirtelMoney agent to deposit the same funds before they can use mobile money services. With this new move, AirtelMoney subscribers will receive funds directly into their Mobile wallets irrespective of whether the sender is an M-PESA or AirtelMoney subscriber. Beyond that, interoperability in Kenya will allow consumers the ability to access different services in case one network experience technical hitches or is undergoing weekend long system upgrades…ahem!!
If successfully launched, Kenya will become the second country in the continent to introduce mobile money Interoperability after Tanzania which launched wallet-to-wallet interoperability in September 2016