Economy starved of billions from M-Pesa outlets

Shops, including M-Pesa outlets, closed in Nairobi on August 8, 2017. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI
Shops, including M-Pesa outlets, closed in Nairobi on August 8, 2017. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI 

Mobile money outlets and banking agency shops remained shut, hitting customers seeking to deposit or withdraw cash hard.

The agents’ closure starved the economy of billions of shillings from mobile money transactions that now account for nearly a quarter of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The few operators who opened only accepted withdrawals, saying they had not replenished their accounts from the super agents, mostly banks.

Banks and most of their agents were also shut, on Tuesday having been declared a public holiday to allow Kenyans to vote.

“I will resume the M-Pesa business once the results are announced,” said Justus Mutiga from his shop in Nairobi that also hosts the mobile money facility.


“I am afraid to keep a large float (cash) should violence break and I lose everything.”

Opinion polls predicted a neck-and-neck race between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, causing anxiety about possible violence in the event of a disputed outcome.

This fear could keep a good chunk of the mobile money outlets closed today as well, operators said.

Safaricom’s #ticker:SCOM M-Pesa mobile money platform is now used by about 20 million Kenyans, equivalent to more than two-thirds of the adult population.

About 25 per cent of Kenya’s gross national product flows through it, making it a fixture in citizens’ expenditure.

The six mobile money companies in Kenya have 165,109 agents across the country, with Safaricom dominating.

Safaricom has 135,000 agents, accounting for 82 per cent of the total agents, and boasts 26.6 million registered customers — 19 million of whom are active users of M-Pesa.

The telecoms operator’s revenue from M-Pesa stood at Sh55.1 billion in the year to March, a 32.7 per cent year-on-year growth.

The firm recorded Sh1.84 trillion in deposits in the year to March compared to Sh1.6 trillion in withdrawals.

Other mobile money platforms are Airtel Money, Telkom Money, Equity Group’s Equitel, Tangaza and MobiKash.