M-PESA is hands-down, one of the greatest products to ever grace the pockets and lives of Kenyan consumers. This product from Safaricom is so tightly knit into our daily lives as Kenyans and we heavily rely on it for many of our trasactions.
To make things easier and to make M-PESA readily accessible by users, Safaricom offers a couple of ways to access the service. The old-school method of accessing this and many people’s go-to is using the SIM Toolkit option.
This is an app that pops up on your device as soon as you insert a Safaricom SIM into your device. It offers all the functions you need from M-PESA. However, many people (yours truly included) have faced challenges using this method one too many times, especially when using a device that wasn’t designed for the local market.
In recognition of this, Safaricom built M-PESA services into the company’s mySafaricom app. This offered smartphone users a gateway into many carrier services and added a layer of sophistication to the good old M-PESA experience. But that didn’t quite fix the issues users with devices that didn’t support SIM Toolkit functionality.
Today, the big-green is at it again, offering users one more way to access M-PESA services. This time, through a method that is far more accessible to many device owners, USSD.
Safaricom is a little late to the party in terms of bringing its mobile money services to USSD. See, Airtel Kenya has for a long time, offered Airtel Money through the *222# USSD Code. Telkom Kenya, the underdog in Kenya’s mobile money scene also offers T-Kash through *160#.
M-PESA on *334# USSD
Starting today, all 25 Million Safaricom M-PESA users can access M-PESA menu through USSD Code *334#.
With this, gone are the limitations of the SIM Toolkit menu and its rather finicky update process because with this menu, Safaricom is able to seamlessly push updates to the service menu with ease. Speaking at the official launch of this tool, Safaricom CEO spoke on the birth of the USSD as a way to improve usability:
We have embarked on a strategy to simplify our range of products and services for our customers and to provide them with an even better experience. M-PESA on USSD *334# is our first solution as part of the ongoing strategy and it refines how our customers interact with the service. Customers now have the opportunity to truly confirm the details of a transaction before it can progress making reversals a thing of the past.Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom.
This new service will show users a summary of the transaction they are about to perform and the system will only proceed after the customer confirms this step. This should, at least in theory, lead to fewer transactions to wrong numbers, an issue that has dogged M-PESA customers for ages.
Safaricom continues to dominate the Kenyan telecom industry with over 60% market share. Despite their offers being a little more expensive than the competition, it is able to retain the lion-share of Kenyan mobile subscribers and this is in part due to the dominance of M-PESA.