Safaricom has taken its mobile money platform M-Pesa online in a deal that allows its 16 million users to pay for goods and services on the Internet.
The telco has partnered with South African firm PayGate, a global payment solutions provider and credit card processor to provide the world-acclaimed money transfer service to online shoppers.
Safaricom is banking on the e-payment facility to drive money transfer traffic and grow earnings from the M-Pesa service, which raked in Sh16.9 billion or 15.8 per cent of total revenues last year.
The move opens up M-Pesa to the lucrative retail payments market where Safaricom is eyeing airlines, hotels, supermarkets, insurance firms and other service providers to sign up.
Firms that use the service will have their websites enabled to accept real-time online M-Pesa payments for goods, services and invoices.
“M-Pesa is the most accepted and pervasive payment method in Kenya so it was a logical step for us to add it to our merchant payment options,” The PayGate marketing director, Robin Philip, was quoted saying in an interview with ITWeb Africa.
Safaricom confirmed the deal but had not replied to our queries by the time of going to press.
The mobile operator has been courting retailers and utility service providers with the M-Pesa pay bill facility through which it assigns companies business numbers that subscribers use when making payments.
Already, more than 600 companies have signed up to the service, including Kenya Power, DStv, Deacons, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company and Kenya Airways. It is also possible to pay for shopping using M-Pesa at all Uchumi and Naivas supermarkets countrywide.
Data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows that the value of transactions moved through mobile money platforms has more than doubled in the past two years to reach Sh1.5 trillion last year.
Kenya has 21.1 million mobile money users who transact across six platforms — M-Pesa, MobiKash, Airtel Money, yuCash, Orange Money and Tangaza — through the operators’ more than 76,000 agents.
The M-Pesa online payments come as a great relief to Kenyans who cannot afford the cost of acquiring a credit card, hence locking them out of the online market.
Statistics from CBK show that of the 10.7 million cards held, a paltry 138,011 or 1.3 per cent are credit cards; with 85 per cent holding debit cards.
The online M-Pesa payments would be the latest innovation in Safaricom’s mobile money stable, having already introduced international money transfers through Western Union and HomeSend in a bid to tap the multi-billion diaspora remittances market.
The Safaricom-Western Union deal allows M-Pesa subscribers in Kenya to receive money from 45 selected countries including the US, UK, Canada and Germany.
In October, Vodafone connected M-Pesa to HomeSend, a global remittance hub that allows users to send and receive funds, to more than 21 money transfer businesses in 35 countries.