Equity Bank #ticker:EQTY has recruited 29,000 merchants to accept retail payments via Equitel mobile cash platform, taking the battle for Kenya’s lucrative segment to pioneer Safaricom’s #ticker:SCOM M-Pesa.
The bank in 2015 began signing up traders to ‘Eazzy Pay Till’ to receive mobile payments from all platforms including rivals M-Pesa and Airtel Money, suggesting a faster growth in enlisting retailers compared to Lipa Na M-Pesa.
Safaricom launched the Lipa Na M-Pesa service in June 2013 and now has 50,000 active merchants, including supermarkets, fuel stations and hotels.
“We now control a third of retail payments in Kenya. This is huge considering the market had one dominant player,” Equity group CEO James Mwangi said on Tuesday.
“Mobile payments are now the drivers of e-commerce.”
Equitel share of retail payments has grown nearly tenfold to hit 30.13 per cent of the value of mobile commerce as at March 2017 compared to 3.7 per cent market share in December 2015, official data shows.
Safaricom’s control of merchant payments dipped by a quarter to 68.93 per cent in March 2017 from 91.95 per cent in December 2015, according to latest statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya.
Equity’s mobile money platform has 1.7 million subscribers compared to M-Pesa’s 22.03 million customers, based on their filings for the quarter to March 2017.
The growing uptake of mobile cash for retail payments over plastic cards is attributed to convenience, safety, cost, and the shorter settlement cycle.
Both Safaricom and Equity charge retailers using their paybill and till numbers one per cent transaction processing fee.
Other mobile money retail platforms in Kenya are Lipa Sasa Na MobiKash, airtel Money’s ‘buy goods’ module while Tangaza Pesa is piloting MyDuka.
Telcos have been wooing merchants to take up mobile payments by offering them real-time settlement of deals, with such cash-flow history making enterprises eligible for loans.
For now, it appears the main battle for payment is between the largest mobile phone services provider Safaricom and the largest retail banker Equity.
Other players unsupported by the large infrastructure networks are expected to struggle playing catch-up.