Safaricom launches new airtime soliciting service


A youth makes a call on her phone. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Safaricom has unveiled a new airtime request service that allows subscribers to get top-ups from fellow network users in efforts aimed at boosting the giant telco’s revenue after it posted a 22.2 percent decline in net profits for the full year ended March 2023.

The new service, applicable to both prepay and postpay customers while excluding subscribers on roaming, allows users to put a request to their close relations to send them Safaricom airtime with amounts ranging from Sh10 to Sh100.

Dubbed Niokolee, the service comes as a complement to earlier services that include ‘Please Call Me’ and ‘Reverse Call’ which allow the firm’s customers to reach out to their contacts even when they are running low on airtime.

The reverse call service allows subscribers to transfer the cost of calls to the receiver by adding ‘#’ before the number they are dialling while the ‘Please Call Me’ service allows users to notify recipients through a text message to call them back.

To make a Niokolee request, users will dial *444#, select the Niokolee option, and enter the amount desired before finally entering the Safaricom number to which the request is being made and pressing okay to finalise the request.

The recipient of the request then gets a notification from 44444 prompting them to either accept or decline the request.

“Your friend 07******** has requested you to gift them with Sh(amount) Kredo. Reply with 1 to accept or 2 to decline,” reads the notification.

Upon accepting, the requested amount is transferred to the borrower and both parties receive notifications of the deal. Responding to the request attracts standard SMS charges.

Safaricom has in recent weeks embarked on an aggressive revenue optimisation drive, among most notable moves including the extension of the fifth generation (5G) network coverage to Kenya’s 21 counties in April and the introduction of the Fuliza overdraft service for businesses earlier this month.

The telco posted its third consecutive full-year profit fall to stand at Sh52.5 billion for the year ended March 2023, a trend attributable to continued heavy capital investments in the Ethiopian venture.

Safaricom rolled out operations in Ethiopia about seven months ago and projects that the unit, which posted a net loss of Sh21.7 billion, will break even after four years.

M-Pesa and voice service have emerged as the top revenue earners for the firm, hitting Sh117.2 billion and Sh81.1 billion respectively in the latest annual performance results.

Voice and text messaging continue to take a hit from instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

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