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Airtel Launches Mobile Money Platform in Kenya

Prof Njuguna Ndung'u

“Mobile Phone Financial services have in particular presented Kenya with an opportunity to significantly upscale access to financial services cost effectively. It has also shown there is a market and everyone now wants a slice of it”, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u has said.

The Governor was speaking during the launch of the new Airtel Money Transfer Service brand dubbed “Airtel Money”. He said the company is out to provide a convenient, affordable, and easily accessible money transfer service to Kenyans from all walks of life as well as to provide the banked members of society with a convenient way to access and transact funds.

“This objective is in tandem with the Central Bank of Kenya policy on adaptation of innovative technological platforms to scale up access to financial services,” Prof Ndung’u said.

He said that the Kenyan Mobile Phone Financial Services story has become a much acclaimed global case study. “To date, over 17.8 million Kenyans transfer over Ksh 3.1 billion to each other daily with over 1.1 million transactions.” Airtel, a telecommunications company controls 18 percent of the registered users and 25 percent of agents.

“Further,” the Governor proclaimed “I wish to commend Airtel for planning to carry out an extensive awareness campaign immediately after the launch in order to stimulate the uptake of the service in addition to the recent extensive country wide agent recruitment exercise by the company.”

He added that “there are so many areas not yet fully covered out there to be served,” encouraging the company to “go for them and increase the share of the population using mobile phone financial services.”

The Central Bank of Kenya is charged with the responsibility of providing guidance for policy and oversight activities of Payment System Operators and regulators. It said early in 2011 that it had released draft regulations to ensure that E-Money Issuers and Payment Service Providers conduct their businesses prudently and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant legal provisions including the Banking, Act, Central Bank of Kenya Act, the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, the Companies Act, the Microfinance Act, and the Sacco Societies Act. The bank aims to provide safety, efficiency and effectiveness of the payment system as a whole.

However, Prof Ndung’u challenged all the stakeholders involved in mobile phone money transfer services to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to safeguard the integrity of systems to protect customers against risks such as fraud, loss of money and loss of privacy.

Additionally, the stakeholders are expected to provide adequate measures to guard against money laundering as well as mitigate the risk of access by non-authorized persons such as hackers. “We have operating platforms within reach and disaster recovery sites in secure locations and tested at all times,” the Governor said.

Mr Rene Meza, Airtel Kenya CEO, said the new mobile commerce industry has undergone a complete transformation ranging from the access menu to distribution network.

“The Airtel money mobile commerce platform has undergone a complete transformation starting with your first interaction with it; which is a simple, easy-to-use customer-friendly access menu that makes is faster and more convenient for customers and dealers to carry out transactions,” Mr Meza said.

The CEO said that more than 6,000 agents have been recruited countrywide to increase the uptake of services. He explained that the number is expected to grow to 8,000 by the end of 2011 and it will be supported by corporate agents such as banks, bank agents, supermarket chains and Posta outlets through nearly 100 business partners, who are engaged for various services including bulk payment, collection accounts and super dealers.

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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