The last couple of days or weeks have been interesting in the mobile money space.
See, it has become apparent to many people now that M-PESA is the leading mobile money product in Kenya – and while Safaricom has not explicitly conceded to that open secret, many other players have been trying to push for the product to be declared so.
M-PESA owns nearly 99.9 percent of the mobile money market share. It cannibalizes rivals in terms of M-PESA agents, customer numbers, and most important of all, revenues that also constitute 45 percent of Safaricom’s income. Those are very high numbers.
Effectively, other products, namely T-Kash and Airtel Money have been unable to compete because the system is just favouring Safaricom, and will little income for them, the two mobile money platforms have failed to innovate in a faster pace that has made M-PESA so successful.
To this end, the CBK has been trying to introduce some checks and balances to tame the dominancy, and protect the consumer in the long run.
A while ago, the CBK had hinted that it would allow paybill and buy goods interoperability, and that the entire exercise would go live by 2023.
However, some key developments have been made, but that progress has been covered here.
Circling back, the dominance situation has more angles than we had anticipated. We only thought that bill payment interoperability would be the only thing that the CBK was eyeing, but there is more.
Starting from 2024, Kenyans using mobile money products will be able to use agency network to deposit or withdraw cash from their wallets.
This means that a T-Kash or Airtel Money user will be able to walk into an M-PESA agent and transact.
The proposal had been made before, but was rejected by Safaricom for obvious reasons.
However, it looks like the closed agent network system will open up to all mobile money products, which is a good that will also see more people use the less popular wallets.
Airtel Money customers can send money to each other for free.
T-Kash charges lesser fees to transact on its product than what M-PESA charges.
These are the benefits that these other customers want to enjoy, but haven’t been able to do so because the market, as a whole, is favouring Safaricom.
There is a long way to go before that happens. Mobile money interoperability exists, and has been for the last four years – but it hasn’t balanced the market for all players as many people expect.
In the meantime, fingers crossed.