The other day, a Twitter bushfire was lit when one Kenyan going by the handle @ItsMutai tweeted asking Kenyans to pay attention to their M-Pesa balances that end in cents and ask big questions to Safaricom, “If your balances end with CENTS, you need to find out why,” read part of the tweet:

After this tweet went live, Kenyans started asking these tough questions with very few understanding exactly what goes on. We even had a tweep quickly calculate how much Safaricom is supposedly earning from the said side hustle. If only he put these mathetics skills into realizing why he has cents on his balance:

Then there were a few of these:

Lipa Na M-Pesa is the Reason

Well, there are no algorithms involved, neither is the old, yet false, “Safaricom is stealing from us” game at play. The simple explanation is M-Pesa charges, not the non-decimal withdrawal and sending charges but the Lipa Na M-Pesa charges that you do not pay attention to.

Each Paybill and Till number has its own transaction charges. Some merchants are nice enough to do the heavy lifting and pay the full amount, some like equality and share the amount with you while some just leave you out to dry and you end up paying the full amount. Regardless of the situation, this is the first instance where you are likely to gather a few cents.

For instance, the screenshot below was obtained from one, @mmnjug, it shows that Shell Bellevue charged him Kes.2.50 transaction cost for his Kes.500 payment. There are many other instances of merchants charging transaction fees that have cents in them, this then translates to users having balances with cents.

M-Pesa Cents Charges

The second scenario applies to those who save on M-Shwari and also shareholders of Safaricom. M-Shwari users, I mean those who actually use it to save, get their interest deposited on their M-Pesa account and this is another source of cents since your interest is paid based on a percentage of your savings. Safaricom shareholders also get their dividends paid to them through M-Pesa and more often than not, this will include a few cents that build your mountain of cents.

So the accusations making rounds online that Safaricom, through M-Pesa is stealing from Kenyans are totally wrong.