Mobile Money interoperability yet to pick in Kenya

The cost of transferring money across different mobile networks in Kenya is still not uniform despite an agreement among the main players and backing from the Central Bank of Kenya

More than a year since the interoperability was introduced, Kenyans still have to pay more for cross-network mobile cash transfers.

In April 2018, mobile money operators (Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya) established cross-network money transfer platforms

The CBK subsequently issued guidelines in which it directed the three telcos to level their charges across all networks.


“In approving this step, CBK laid out three crucial principles for interoperability... The price for transferring money out of the network will be no higher than that of transferring money within the network. There will also be no interchange fees,” the regulator said then.

Previously cross network money transfer was only possible using SMS vouchers that expired within seven days and had to be cashed out at the sender’s agent network.

If the receiver needed the money in their mobile wallet, they would have to find their network agent and load (cash-in) the money.

While Airtel has a singular price tariff for transfers to all networks, Safaricom and Telkom are both charging unregistered users higher fees for cash transfers than they do their subscriber.

Unlike in neighbouring Tanzania where mobile money interoperability accounts for 30 per cent of person-to-person cash transfers as per FSD Kenya data, Airtel and Telkom are still playing catch up with M-pesa’s continued success.

Data by the Communications Authority shows M-pesa controlled 81.1 per cent of the cash transferred through mobile phones at Sh2.09 trillion in the January-March period compared to 78.97 per cent market share over the same period last year.

On the other hand, the value of cash transferred through Airtel Money declined to Sh3.1 billion over the review period from Sh5.25 billion before interoperability was introduced. This is despite offering the lowest tariffs among the three telcos.

According to the data, T-Kash launched last March, has recorded a spike in mobile money transfers growing to Sh184.11 million during the first quarter of 2019 compared to Sh2.44 million the same period last year.

FSD Kenya’s program manager & digital payments specialist Juliet Mburu said while mobile money interoperability is a great achievement, additional gains to be achieved from this can only be fully realised once mobile money is interoperable at the mobile agent level.

“This will allow for any user from any mobile money network to have access to all the mobile agents in the country for cash-in and cash-out transactions,” she said.