In a move that could pitch Vodacom competitively against local banks for the first time, its parent Vodafone has announced that it will launch M-Pesa, Kenya’s wildly popular mobile money transfer service, in SA.
Vodafone told delegates at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on Tuesday that Vodacom would launch the service in partnership with a local bank, but declined to name the institution.
Vodacom was keeping mum on the subject on Wednesday. “We can confirm that although Vodacom intends to launch M-Pesa in the local market, we cannot currently release any concrete information relating to a possible timeline for the availability of M-Pesa, nor provide details of how it would be implemented,” said spokesman Nicolene Visser.
Visser also declined to say how the M-Pesa business in SA would be structured. “We will release more information closer to the time,” she said.
“With about 26m people in SA without official bank accounts, M-Pesa will enable millions of mobile phone subscribers who have access to a cellphone, but do not have or have only limited access to a bank account, to send and receive money via their phones,” Vodafone said in a statement.
The M-Pesa service was developed by Vodafone and has already been deployed by Safaricom in Kenya, Vodacom in Tanzania and Roshan in Afghanistan (branded M-Paisa). More than 11m registered customers now rely on their mobile phones for money transfer, airtime top-up and bill payments, the group said.
Cenk Serdar, Vodafone’s director of mobile payments, said the successful take-up of M-Pesa in Kenya had clearly demonstrated the demand for easily accessible, secure payment services particularly in emerging markets.
“There are many benefits of using mobile phones for micro-transactions in a country like SA, where only 60% of people have a bank account in the formal sector, and yet the mobile penetration rate amongst the total adult population is more than 94%,” he said. — Staff reporter, TechCentral