M-PESA Has 98.5 Percent Mobile Money Subscriptions in Kenya, So Why Do The Rest Even Try to Compete?

M-PESA's market share in terms of mobile money subscriptions is at 98.5 percent, and the rest do not come even close at 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent for Airtel Money and T-Kash, respectively.

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Data about mobile money services has been released by the ICT regulator the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) for the first quarter of the 2021/2022 FY, starting from July to September 2021.

This information is essential because it highlights trends in the mobile money space, bearing in mind that Kenya is one of the few countries whose people are heavily invested in such services, and fintech as a whole. This is mainly due to M-PESA, which, as we have covered numerous times before, is the basis for the success of fintech firms, and other associated services that are offered by tens, perhaps more, of financial services companies operating in the country.

It should also be remembered that Kenyans have been using mobile money services more following the start of the pandemic back in March 2020. The government, among other agencies such as the CBK, asked people to limit their use of cash to stop the spread of the virus.

At that time too, directives by the CBK, such as the one that allowed people to send under KES 1000 for free using mobile money services saw widespread use of mobile money products. Of course, the directive was abandoned in early 2021 because operators such as Safaricom reported dwindling revenues from M-PESA, so sending transactions had to be reinstated.

Another development that saw the light of day during the pandemic was sending cash from banks to mobile wallets for free. Not all banks allow this service, but leading lenders are yet to lift the service. It has gone a long way in seeing more people use mobile money services, particularly because it is basically free to move substantial amounts of money to a mobile money wallet without incurring high fees charged by the likes of M-PESA.

Data from the CA reveals that over the pandemic, Kenyans have seen the essence of using paybill and buy goods/services options more. In the same breath, there has been an overall growth in merchant payments and deposits, and this first quarter was no exception.

Nevertheless, the value of government to citizens transfers dropped by near 30 percent due to the reduction in COVID-19 fund disbursements by the state.

Here is a short summary of mobile money transfer per operator:

Mobile Money Brand/IndicatorM-PESAAirtel MoneyT-KashTotal
Active Registered Mobile Money Subs34 million 277K249K34.5 million
Value of C2B Transfers in KES1.195 trillion1.227 billion47.2 million1.196 trillion
Value of B2C Transfers in KES 817.27 billion315.37 million85.9 million817.677 billion
Value of B2B Transfers in KES 1.960 trillion1.960 trillion
Value of G2C Transfers in KES 1.885 billion1.885 billion

A few things can be pointed out from the table above. First, Safaricom’s M-PESA still leads the mobile money space in all indicators, including the number of agents, the value of transfers, and active registered users. This means that M-PESA’s market share in terms of mobile money subscriptions is at 98.5 percent, and the rest do not come even close at 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent for Airtel Money and T-Kash, respectively.

Also, it appears that the most preferred mode for transferring government funds to people affected by the pandemic, and more recently, the drought, is M-PESA. The carrier has since made the move of drought funds free, but recipients will have to pay to withdraw the money.

Admittedly, T-Kash and Airtel Money cannot offer fair competition to M-PESA, but they are still here to offer the service to their few customers. And they have been doing the same thing for an extended period without marked improvements so, why are they still operational?