Airtel agents loss tilts market in favour of rivals
Posted Sunday, July 15 2012 at 16:11
Airtel lost more than 2,000 of its mobile money transfer agents in the last one year, helping Safaricom to firm its grip on the competitive mobile cash transfer segment.
Data from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) shows that Airtel is the only service provider whose number of mobile money transfer agents reduced.
At the end of the first quarter in 2012, the industry had 45,861 active mobile money transfer service agents compared to 47,997 recorded in the previous quarter.
“The decline of 4.5 per cent could be attributed to Airtel Networks Kenya Limited, the only operator that reported a decrease in number of agents,” said CCK in its latest quarterly report.
Airtel communications official Dick Omondi, however, said a decline in agent numbers does not mean the company is losing transaction volumes which are more important.
Safaricom said in its annual report that its M-Pesa agents rose 46 per cent to 39,400 in the last one year leaving the rest of the service providers with a paltry 9,000 agents across Kenya.
The growth of M-Pesa agents gives Safaricom the muscle to lock in subscribers in a fiercely contested telecoms market.
An Airtel agent, who asked not to be named, told the Business Daily that business is slow because there are few customers to drive up transaction volumes, making it less attractive.
“Agents have to make money, if there are no enough transactions moving through the Airtel system then they are not motivated to stay,” said Eric Musau, an analyst at Standard Investment Bank.
Telkom Kenya has more than 6,000 agents with Equity Bank playing a significant role in boosting the numbers, said Telkom’s corporate communications manager Angela Mumo.
Central Bank data shows Airtel Money transferred Sh420 million in 2011, Orange and Yu, Sh20 million each, MobiKash handled Sh4 million with M-Pesa handling Sh116 billion.
The industry recorded 18.9 million mobile money transfer subscriptions, slightly up compared to 2010.
It reported a marginal growth of 0.03 per cent during the first quarter of 2012 and 9.1 per cent growth over the same period in 2011.
The industry grew total deposits by 4.8 per cent from Sh176.8 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2011 to Sh185.4 billion first quarter of 2012.
The steady growth in the total deposits over time indicates that demand for the mobile money transfer service has continued to grow due to its convenience and easy of access.