M-Pesa shop

M-Pesa shopThe latest stats by the Communication Authority of Kenya reveal that as much as active mobile money subscriptions have taken a shortfall by 3 percent over the last three months, the value of transactions has shown slight growth at over Kes.3 billion compared to the last quarter where Kenyans transacted 2.8 billion over mobile money.

The impressive numbers show an ever-growing use of mobile money across the different competitors with newer players tipping the scale by offering free or much lower transaction costs to attract customers. However, we really aren’t here to discuss the dynamics of mobile money in Kenya but to share a revelation that mobile money might not be as popular in some major cities as I initially thought.

As a Nairobian, I will forgive you if you assume that everyone does everything like you do. Nairobians are always in a hurry, always sceptical and the chances of them telling you they are their way while still in bed are much higher than any other group of people I have met. The other day, Techweez went down to the coast of Kenya, Mombasa in particular, for the Tech Tamasha festival.

It was not my first time in Mombasa but for some reason, it was the first time that I realized mobile money services in Mombasa are not as popular as I thought. Unlike Nairobi, where even matatu touts will happily take M-Pesa if you insist that you have no cash on you, Mombasa seems to have not caught on the craze.

I had to cross the road, twice and walk a few blocks before I could find a working M-Pesa agent

Yes, there are mobile money services available but it seems even the telcos are not that keen to push these services to the coastal people. M-Pesa, being the most popular service in Kenya, obviously was more pronounced, making an appearance in at least three out of every ten shops but the likes of Airtel Money and T-Kash were hen’s teeth.

Despite the obviously superior branding presence that M-Pesa possesses, its usage is still quite low, as per my experience. I have no figures to back this up but even the shops that had M-Pesa branding, a majority of them were either shut down or didn’t offer the service anymore. Rarer was the much-loved (according to CA’s quarterly numbers) Lipa na M-Pesa option – the only places that accepted Lipa na M-Pesa were millennial’s favourite fast food joints such as Chicken Inn and the likes and a few shops in the mall as well as supermarkets but most shops in the CBD of Mombasa prefer transacting in cash.

After having a hard time trying to pay for services via M-Pesa, I decided to withdraw some money and this too wasn’t a walk down the park. I had to cross the road, twice and walk a few blocks before I could find a working M-Pesa agent.

I have not found a logical explanation for my findings but to put everything into perspective, I was not in a remote part of Mombasa, this was the CBD. Also, it was the weekend, Saturday to be precise but on Monday, things weren’t any different. I visited a number of restaurants, shopped from a number of outlets and even used taxis but one thing was constant with all these, none of them had the option of paying via M-Pesa or any other mobile money service.

I would expect such low usage of mobile money in remote areas but not a city. I would love to hear a logical explanation, so feel free to continue with the discussion in the comment section below. For now, let me get down from my pedestal, as the bubble that I live in was already burst.


  1. I think the county has punitive fees and levies for operating Mpesa and other mobile money agents alike. I was in MSA last long time ago and I didn’t experience what you’ve faced. I was even able to transact in remote areas such as Vipingo where network was poor at that time.

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