Last week, two members of the Techweez team had the opportunity of interviewing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the interview, the CEO said he saw the visit to Nairobi as an opportunity to learn from the local entrepreneur and developer ecosystem. He spoke highly of Kenya’s mobile money ecosystem calling it the most advanced in the world. “I think what you have here with mobile money is something interesting and unique”, he said.
To our surprise we saw a few publications stating that the CEO announced plans for the social network to purchase mobile money transfer solution M-Pesa. Whats interesting was that those reports were construed as true despite being fallacious. We in fact received tonnes of inquiries on our various channels and even in personal capacities with many curious on their authenticity. They are not. The reports originated from a respected local paper whose journalist was not part of the team that met the Facebook CEO.
Facebook’s Public Policy Director for Africa Ebele Okobi has also rubbished these reports. “This is fabricated nonsense, unsupported by any facts or credible sources whatsoever”, said Ebele. Here is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Techweez on the question of if Facebook would partner with M-Pesa. “We would approach such a solution from a partnership angle that includes banks and even government. We would be keen to provide parts of the technology as we have done with connectivity”, he said.
What does this mean?
Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp are evolving into critical tools for small businesses across the world. They are increasingly using them for customer management and in some instances order fulfillment. The addition of a transaction end to this would make these services a complete suite for a small business. That is where M-Pesa comes in owing to its transaction capabilities, making it possible to make payments. In addition, Messenger and WhatsApp both have a billion users and the ability to make peer-to-peer money transfer would be an interesting addition for Facebook. M-Pesa has allowed for the completion of billions of transactions for users in Kenya, which is something the CEO wanted to see first hand. That is why Facebook CEO came to Kenya to see how M-Pesa has been able to achieve these two fetes.
On M-Pesa, Vodafone through Vodafone Sales and Services Ltd (VSSL) owns proprietary rights to the M-Pesa platform and earns service fees accrued from the use of the mobile money transfer solution. If indeed Facebook was interested in an acquisition as reported, Vodafone would be the party to approach. Even so, Safaricom has clarified its position on the matter stating that these reports are untrue.