Safaricom opens M-Pesa to Airtel, Telkom customers


In the new feature, a cancellation of an M-Pesa payment transaction is promptly followed by an automated call from Safaricom to the affected customer.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Safaricom will open its Lipa Na M-Pesa cashless payment service to subscribers on rival mobile networks, Airtel and Telkom, in a shift aimed at improving financial inclusivity through user convenience.

The country’s leading telco wants to expand customer choices by allowing merchant payments by users outside its network in a concept known as interoperability.

This is a scenario where two or more service providers share infrastructure to ensure their respective clients are served at either’s outlet, even as they calculate ways to bear the burden.

The merchant payment interoperability means that a customer using Airtel cash, Telkom’s T-Kash will now be able to pay for goods and services at a business only registered by Safaricom’s Lipa Na M-Pesa.

“The essence is to allow payments through an M-Pesa till number without worrying about the service provider. For example, one would be allowed to a petrol station and pay for products through an M-Pesa till number using Airtel Money or T-Kash by Telkom,” a company official told the Nation.


“The service providers would then reconcile the transactions among themselves. This gives mobile money users freedom and convenience,” the source added.

This is a change that is likely to bring convenience to both customers and businesses as they will both be saved from the hustle to seek clients or businesses subscribing to the same service provider, to get or offer services.

The Safaricom team yesterday held a final preparatory meeting ahead of the launch of the new product. “I cannot give you details on the new arrangement but the official brief will be out anytime,” a source said.

M-Pesa remains Safaricom’s single largest business line and in the company’s half-year results to September 2021, it earned the firm Sh52.3 billion – representing over 37 per cent of the revenues during the period.

“M-Pesa now accounts for 37.8 per cent of service revenue, reflective of the opportunity for digital financial services to consumers and enterprise customers,” the company said in a statement in November last year.

Sh82.6 billion

In the full year to March 2021, M-Pesa earned Safaricom Sh82.6 billion, despite the fact that it had waived charges for all transactions below Sh1,000.

The move by Safaricom comes after the Central Bank of Kenya launched the national payments system weeks ago, setting the ground for operators to accept cash from competitors for seamless transfer across merchants.

The company last month reported that businesses operating Lipa na M-Pesa till numbers had doubled from 173,000 in April 2020 to more than 387,000. Kenya accounts for 30 million of the 51 million M-Pesa users across the region.

“The growth in M-Pesa customer usage has been driven by the launch of various innovations over the years, including financial services such as M-Shwari, KCB M-Pesa and Fuliza,” said Safaricom chief executive Peter Ndegwa.