[daily nation] Safaricom and Zain transferred a whopping Sh318.4 billion through their mobile money transfer services in 12 months up to June last year, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.
The bank says Safaricom and Zain transferred the money, which translates to about Sh1 billion per day, between June 30, 2008 and June 30, 2009 through their M-Pesa and Zap services respectively.
This represents a 421 per cent growth over the Sh61.1 billion transferred in the year to June 30, 2008, the speed and size of the transferred funds clearly indicating the power of the mobile telephone industry in opening up the economy.
This is critical especially to the millions of rural and unbanked Kenyans who live in abject poverty, most on less than a dollar (Sh75) a day, and have to rely financially on relatives and friends in the cities.
"Similarly, the number of transactions increased from 21.8 million to 125.1 million over the same period," CBK governor, Prof Njuguna Ndung'u, says in the bank's annual report to be presented to Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
Registered mobile phone money transfer customers increased from three million to 7.4 million last year.
Given that Zain launched Zap in March 2009, Safaricom's M-Pesa accounted for the lion's share of the transactions, overall transfer and customers. Zain had another service, Sokotele, operating before then but was phased out in late 2008.
Yet, significant changes have not only taken place, but are also likely to continue unfolding with the incumbents digging in and new players joining.
For instance, M-Pesa has almost 8 million registered users and the value of cumulative person-to-person transfers since inception had hit Sh230 billion by August 2009.
Zain Kenya managing director, Rene Menza, said they are engaged in partnership discussions with various companies for third party payments.
"Cumulatively, we have moved more than Sh750 million in person-to-person transfers. We have over 400,000 customers on the Zap platform but this year, we project to have more than 1.5 million customers using the service," said Mr Menza.
The service has been launched in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Niger, Sierra Leone and Malawi.
As Telkom Kenya's Orange, the country's third mobile phone operator, is said to be planning to venture into the sector, Essar Group--the fourth operator, yu, brand owners--partnered with Obopay, a mobile phone money transfer service company, to launch its yuCash service in December 2009.
Contacted on Friday, yu chief commercial officer Kunal Ramteke said they are rolling out a countrywide network of agents and target over 3,000 agents.
Kenya: Sh318 Billion Sent Through Phones in 12 Months