GROWTH

Safaricom's M-Pesa hits 50 million users in Africa

The platform contributed to about one-third of Safaricom’s service revenue last year

In Summary
  • The service was launched in March 2007
  • In June, Safaricom launched the M-Pesa Super app that enables users to ask for money from friends, family, or people who owe them money.
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi.
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi.
Image: REUTERS

Safaricom Plc run mobile money transfer platform M-Pesa has hit the 50 million active users, stamping its authority as the pioneer global mobile money platform. 

The milestone comes 14 years since the launch of the service in Kenya and nearly two years since the launch of the M-Pesa Africa Joint Venture.

Safaricom pioneered the person-to-person money transfer service in March 2007, which has since grown to a lucrative platform also offering customer-to-business and business-to-customer services.

The venture between Safaricom and its parent firm Vodacom has allowed M-Pesa to spread its presence to Tanzania, Mozambique, DRC, Lesotho, Ghana and Egypt.

Safaricom and Vodacom acquired the M-Pesa brand and platform from their UK parent firm Vodafone Plc to form the joint venture, M-Pesa Africa, in April last year.

The two telcos plan to grow M-Pesa beyond the existing markets, with plans to establish in Ethiopia currently underway after a consortium linked with parent firms obtained a license to operate in the land-locked country mid this year. 

"We are delighted to celebrate this remarkable milestone with our more than 50 million customers across the continent,” Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, the M-Pesa Africa managing director, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

In June, Safaricom launched the M-Pesa Super app that enables users to ask for money from friends, family, or people who owe them money.

Customers on the app can also send money to multiple users of the mobile service, pay for insurance and buy tickets for buses, trains and concerts.

M-Pesa, which allows users to send and receive cash, and pay for goods and services even on basic feature phones, has powered Safaricom’s earnings in recent years.

M-Pesa contributed to about one-third of Safaricom’s service revenue in its fiscal year to March 31 or a representative Sh82.6 billion.

According to prior disclosures by Safaricom, about 28 million of the active monthly users were in Kenya as of March 31 this year.

This means that M-Pesa has as many users in its secondary markets as it has in its home base.

There has been a push by various quarters to delink M-Pesa from Safaricom to ease what its competitors see as market dominance. 

The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill wants Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya to split their telecommunications business from the mobile money transfer and lending units.

The author of the proposed law, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo argues that  Safaricom has become too big through its dominant market share in voice, mobile data, and mobile money.