Kenya’s largest mobile phone company Safaricom has softened its position on opening up its mobile money system M-Pesa to rivals.
This comes days before an expected ruling by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) that could force the network operator to open its agency network and even allow for interoperability of M-Pesa with other mobile money systems.
Safaricom, which has long been resisting attempts by rival networks such as Airtel to open up its M-Pesa system, has said it is preparing for any outcome from the CAK.
“Due to the growing pervasiveness of mobile money platforms globally, it is now necessary to pursue a standards-led discussion on interoperability,” Nzioka Waita, the director of corporate affairs at Safaricom, has been quoted by reports.
However, Safaricom says rules regarding mobile money interoperability need to be implemented, while a revenue sharing model among telecom providers must also be conceptualised.
The CAK plans to deliver its ruling at the end of June after Airtel Kenya filed a petition against Safaricom over its alleged ‘unfair dominance’ in the mobile money market.
Safaricom has over 11 million M-Pesa users in Kenya.
“We have made extensive progress on this matter as part of an out-of-court settlement agreed upon by both parties. By the end of this month, we shall have made a ruling,” said director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki.
Mobile money subscribers from Airtel, Orange and yuMobile who send or receive money via M-Pesa are also charged double the amount paid by Safaricom users.
Airtel has said this is unfair.
Meanwhile, these developments in Kenya have come amid its neighbour Tanzania having sealed Africa’s first mobile money interoperability agreement.
The agreement allows mobile money customers to transfer cash to each other regardless of whether they are using M-Pesa-like services from operators Tigo, Airtel or Zantel.