MPs snub Bill seeking M-Pesa, Safaricom split


Safaricom headquarters on Nairobi’s Waiyaki Way. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

MPs have snubbed debate on a Bill that seeks to compel Safaricom #ticker:SCOM, Airtel and Telkom Kenya to split their telecommunications business from the mobile money transfer and lending units.

The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill sponsored by Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo targets to address concerns that Safaricom has become too big through its dominant market share in voice, mobile data, and mobile money.

Progression of the matter however now looks bleak after only two out of 349 legislators showed interest in debating its content.

Mr Odhiambo and his Nyando counterpart Jared Okello are the only lawmakers who contributed to the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill.

This means Mr Odhiambo will have an uphill task convincing MPs to back his intentions to break up telcos.

Eight MPs who had logged on the system to speak when debate on the Bill resumed, said they had no intention to contribute to the proposed law.

“Only two members had spoken to the Bill. Honourable Odhiambo who moved debate and Jared Okello who seconded.

“I can see no other interest. This means that the mover be called to reply,” Moses Cheboi, the Deputy Speaker said.

Mr Odhiambo was not present in the House, forcing Mr Cheboi to direct that no further debate will be taken on the Bill once the matter comes up again.

“I direct that this matter only comes up for Mr Odhiambo to reply on this Bill. There will be no further debate,” he ruled.

MPs will vote to either approve the Bill to proceed to the Third Reading and final stage or reject it meaning the proposed law will be lost.

If approved, telecommunication firms with existing businesses will within six months of the law coming into force ensure that the business is compliant.

The mobile phone companies will be required to form separate entities to manage any other business they engage in outside telecommunications services.

They will then be licensed to only offer voice, data, and SMS services while mobile money services will be licensed as banks.

In developed markets, anti-trust enforcement has gone further to require a conglomerate to sell some of its divisions or subsidiaries.

Currently, Safaricom controls about 65 percent market share in voice while its mobile money business has virtually no challenger. The push to force Safaricom to be split has previously failed.