Facebook payment platform threat to M-Pesa, say experts


An M-Pesa agent attends to a customer. PHOTO | FILE

Research analysts at the Standard Investment Bank see a threat to Safaricom M-Pesa’s future business plans in Facebook’s new mobile payment services.

In a research note sent to investors on Thursday, the analysts said the probability of the service being rolled out globally increases competition to mobile payment services such as M-Pesa and limits future growth plans.

Safaricom on Thursday however said it does not see any immediate threat in the Kenyan market.

“The service is only enabled for Facebook users to send money to each other in the US, we do not see any immediate impact here in Kenya. Keep in mind Facebook currently reaches less than four million users in Kenya,” said Safaricom corporate affairs director Nzioka Waita in an interview.

On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it is adding a feature to its Facebook Messenger app that will enable people to send payments directly to their friends on the social network.

The new feature will be launched in the coming months, initially for US users only. It will be available within the Android and iOS Messenger apps as well as through the messaging section of Facebook’s website.

Safaricom is counting on its suite of value-added services to cushion M-Pesa from the emerging competition.

“We believe that the strong distribution network that we have built for M-Pesa both in Kenya and through its partners in other markets such as Western Union and Moneygram will enable us to reach a wider demographic than products such as Facebook Money,” said Mr Waita.

READ: Citi analysts see little competition for M-Pesa

People will have to register their debit cards to send or receive payments through Facebook Messenger. Once set up, they’ll be able to tap a dollar icon within a conversation with a friend, and enter the desired amount of money to send.

“While not necessarily an immediate big risk to established players in Kenya such as Safaricom, Facebook has scale which could take away business opportunities that the M-Pesa platform may seek to pursue in future,” said the Standard Investment Bank analysts.

M-Pesa was launched in Kenya in 2007 as a person-to-person mobile money transfer service but has over the years evolved into a popular payment model that is used by small business and big corporations to make bulk payments.

In December Safaricom obtained a license from the Central Bank of Kenya, enabling the telecoms giant to transfer money out of the country, opening new markets for its popular mobile money transfer service.