In January, Safaricom and Airtel announced that they were testing mobile money interoperability among their staff. This meant that M-Pesa users who receive money from Airtel users and vice versa will not only get a text notification of this transaction but will now see the amount reflect directly on their mobile money wallets.
Following a month-long successful pilot, the two telcos are set to roll out the feature to the public. Initially, if an Airtel Money user sent money to an M-Pesa user, the M-Pesa user would receive a text message on the transaction but the balance would not reflect on their M-Pesa statement, the M-Pesa user would have to go to an Airtel Money agent to withdraw the cash.
Mobile Money interoperability is meant to make this transaction between networks seamless in an effort to increase competition in the space, where Safaricom’s M-Pesa possesses a market share of 80.8%. It is believed that mobile money interoperability will see a rise in transactions for Airtel, whose customers make an average of 0.6 transactions per month visa vi Safaricom’s 6 M-Pesa transactions per month.
Telkom, who recently launched their mobile money service T-Kash, is also said to soon join in the interoperability at a later date. There are no pricing details yet on how much it will cost one to send money from one network to the other but word has it that the two telcos have agreed not to charge each other inter-change fees.
Now that we have the mobile money interoperability train rolling, we should also see the telcos initiate agent interoperability, allowing customers to withdraw or deposit money through any agent because lack of a vast agent network is the biggest challenge a service like Airtel Money faces. Context; M-Pesa agents account for 67% of all mobile money agents in the country.