Voting Closed:

SHIFT

Safaricom stays put on M-Pesa as Airtel splits services

"At this time there is no change in our position," Micheal Joseph said.

In Summary

•Currently, Safaricom controls about 65 per cent market share in voice while its mobile money business has virtually no challenger. 

•"At this time there is no change in our position," Micheal Joseph said.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Joseph flanked by Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng'ang'a addresses an investor briefing at their headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya November 1, 2019.
Safaricom Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Joseph flanked by Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng'ang'a addresses an investor briefing at their headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya November 1, 2019.
Image: REUTERS

Safaricom does not plan to split its telecommunication business from its successful mobile money service M-Pesa, at least for now.

The mobile company's chairman Michael Joseph told the Star they are yet to be convinced on the proposed shift.

"At this time there is no change in our position," Michael Joseph said.

Safaricom's position comes as rival's Airtel on Thursday announced separation of its services to "better serve customers".

Airtel money services will now be provided by Airtel Money Kenya Limited in collaboration with the telecommunication network of Airtel Networks Kenya Limited.

In a public notice on Wednesday the company said continued use of Airtel money Service shall be deemed as proof of a customer's acceptance of the transfer of their account and related customer data.

Attempts to force Safaricom to split its business, which dominates both Kenya’s mobile money market and its wireless industry, dates back six years ago.

Last year, MPs snubbed debate on a Bill that sought to compel all telecommunication firms to split their voice and data business from their mobile money transfer and lending units.

Currently, Safaricom controls about 65 per cent market share in voice, while its mobile money business has virtually no challenger. Rival Airtel holds a 17 per cent share, with Telkom Kenya on 14 per cent.

In the year ended March, M-Pesa made a profit of Sh50 billion before tax contributing nearly half of the Safaricom's total gross earnings solidifying M-Pesa’s position as its most profitable service.

This was the first time M-Pesa performance was listed separately in the Telco’s profit, having previously just reported the contribution to revenues. Voice has been Safaricom’s leading revenue stream.

M-Pesa contributed 49 per cent of the Telco’s Sh102.2 billion profit before tax and 36 per cent of the company’s total revenue of Sh298.07 billion.

This means the mobile money unit has a higher profitability.

Proposers want M-Pesa and Safaricom’s mobile services to operate as two separate entities, with different boards, brands, and regulators.

If this is implemented, the Communications Authority of Kenya will regulate Safaricom’s mobile unit, while M-Pesa will be under the purview of the Central Bank of Kenya.

Joseph in a previous interview said the possibility of M-Pesa split from Safaricom would mean more prospects for a wider range of services under the platform.

He noted high-value loans as one of the benefits that would come from the split.

It is the belief of the lawmakers that such a split will provide a level playing field for the other players in the sector.

Safaricom’s market share in voice, data and mobile money is bigger than shares of its competitors, Airtel Kenya and Telkom, combined. Safaricom controls over 60 per cent for mobile subscriptions 68 per cent for data and up to 99 per cent for mobile money.

M-Pesa has long been described as one of the greatest success stories of mobile money in the world, and its use became especially spread with the onset of the pandemic.