CUSHION

Safaricom absorbing Sh2.7bn monthly cost to cushion small businesses

In June, the listed telco launched a Lipa Na M-Pesa Business smartphone app for the more than 170,000 merchants on the service.

In Summary
  • CBK has pushed the transaction fee  waiver to end of the year
  • The telco commands 99.1 per cent of the total mobile money sector in the country
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi, May 11, 2016
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi, May 11, 2016
Image: REUTERS

Safaricom is forfeiting at least Sh2.7 billion every month in mobile money transaction fees to cushion small traders from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an interview with the Star, Safaricom head of Enterprise Channels and SMEs John Mureithi said the waiver has seen most businesses adopt cashless transactions, ensuring business continuity.

As a result, overall transactions on M-Pesa have grown by 40 per cent with those of Lipa na M-Pesa rising by 20 per cent.

 

''The revenue coming in does not bother us or the loss incurred due to the waiver. Our primary goal is to enable businesses to operate effectively,’’ Mureithi said.

In mid-March, the Central Bank of Kenya directed banks and telcos to waive mobile transaction charges to help cushion Kenyans against the heat of Covid-19.

Telecommunications companies such as Safaricom were directed to waive transaction charges for amounts of Sh1000 and below for a period of 90 days.

In early July, CBK extended the directive by a further six months.

This, Safaricom said will see it lose the equivalent of $152 million (Sh16.5 billion) by the end of the year. The telco commands 99.1 per cent of the total mobile money sector in the country.

Mobile Money transactions in Kenya dropped by a total of Sh36.7 billion over the first five months of the year to Sh1.75 trillion 1,752 against Sh1.79trillion over the same period in 2019.

According to CBK, the peak of the decline occurred in April (Sh50 billion) when the government took stricter measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Mureithi added that the telco is planning to unveil a series of products and measures to complement those already in the market with the view of helping small businesses cope with the ‘new normal’ necessitated by the pandemic that is threatening to crush the global economy.

In June, the listed telco launched a Lipa Na M-Pesa Business smartphone app for the more than 170,000 merchants on the service.

Dubbed 'M-Pesa for Business', it allows empower business owners to access real-time statements, export statements, and track their business performance on the go.

Through the app, business owners can also withdraw funds from Lipa Na M-Pesa to their M-Pesa accounts, bank accounts, or at an agent. Business owners with a business can now also send money to other M-PESA customers such as to pay wages, pay for supplies, and make payments to other businesses all through the app.

The app was designed to take advantage of unique smartphone capabilities to provide businesses with powerful, additional features and a digital, modern way to use the service.

In the same month, Safaricom users redeemed more than a billion Bonga points in two months through the Bonga For Good Initiative.

The initiative which sought to cushion Kenyans against the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, saw over 600,000 customers donate points equivalent to over Sh330 million at over 40,000 Lipa na M-PESA merchants across the country.

The Bonga loyalty scheme was introduced in 2007 with enrolled customers accumulating a point for every Sh10 spent on services on the Safaricom network.

Murithi hinted that the firm would be looking in the area of Internet connectivity to help SMEs take businesses online.

''Work is more of space than a place. Together with other stakeholders, Safaricom is exploring ways to help businesses increase efficiency,’’ Mureithi said.