The Safaricom split story has always been a hot discussion topic among lawmakers, and other people with vested interests in the matter. The story, while highly disputed by Safaricom’s internal teams and top leadership, with former CEO the late Bob Collymore once saying that the company must never be punished for being successful, was linked to the fact that Safaricom is too big and can be better run if its mobile money product M-PESA was spun as a separate entity from carrier business.
The assessment that Safaricom was too huge a company to compete fairly with smaller operators has never been explicitly stated, although an examination done by British firm Analysys Mason determined that the vast majority of the carrier and mobile money business tipped the scales in Safaricom’s favour. The evaluation had been done thanks to ICT regulator the Communications Authority’s blessing. It is Analysys that first fronted the idea of splitting Safaricom back in 2017.
Years later in 2020, Kenyan senators explored the discussion, maintaining that the split was necessary. According to them, this separation of business can actually level the playing ground because the likes of Telkom and Airtel Kenya have the potential to present any notable competition to Safaricom. They had also suggested that its carrier business would be under the CA and M-PESA under the CBK.
However, many months later, MPs refused to explore the Safaricom split. All Members of Parliament save for just two, distanced themselves from a new Bill that sought to introduce such a split to all telcos. Named The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, the proposal was sponsored by Elisha Odhiambo, who was serving as MP for Gem at that time.
Notable developments around this discussion have been made so far. Mid this year, Safaricom appeared to have taken legislative pressure to split the company into account after it was revealed that it would split the company.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa has since revealed that the separation of the two businesses will see the creation of a holding company, which will manage the telco’s mobile money services, towers, data services, and the Ethiopian arm. The Ethiopia business has already gone live and Safaricom services are already running in three cities. The official launch is supposed to go live sometime next week.
In the future, we expect there will be a holding company, probably the listed business and there will be quite a few businesses that operate under Safaricom we are also able to monetize some of the assets we have for example the towers that we could lease in the future so probably have tower company – CEO Peter Ndegwa had said previously.
Already, Safaricom is sharing its paybill and buy goods infrastructure with Telkom and Airtel Kenya. By 2024, agency interoperability will also go live.
Airtel Kenya has already separated its mobile money business, Airtel Money, from its other services. It is the first company to do so in Kenya, and Telkom Kenya with its T-Kash product was to be done around the same time Airtel did, but that has not happened yet.
A word from CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge reveals that the remaining split could be done as soon as January.
It would therefore imply that M-PESA and T-Kash will join Airtel Money separate operations from their mother companies.