Visa takes on M-Pesa with launch of new mobile payment service

Global payments firm, Visa, has launched a mobile payment solution in a move set to stir competition in the lucrative cash transfer industry currently dominated by Safaricom's M-Pesa.

The service dubbed mVisa, allows consumers to make purchases and money transactions using their mobile phones. The mVisa application runs on the Visa global network, hence transactions can be conducted at virtually any outlet that accepts Visa regardless the currency.

"Because the transaction runs through the Visa network, the consumers and merchants do not need to be customers of the same bank or mobile operator," explained Mr Andrew Torre, Group Country Manager for Visa in an interview with Bloomberg.

This is the first time mVisa is being launched in Africa and the company is working with four local banks - Co-Operative Bank, Family Bank, KCB and NIC Bank- with an intention of scaling up the partnership to include more financial service providers.

"Kenyans already understand the benefits of mobile payments, and mVisa offers them a better way to pay and be paid, with a service which is not limited by the mobile network they have or the handset they use," explained Torre.

The mVisa service is available to consumers using both smart phones and feature phones. Visa is looking at pushing adoption of the new service across the country's 38 million mobile phone subscribers.

Visa is the latest global company to take a swipe at mobile payments and comes hot on the heels of several other global tech giants including Google, Apple and Facebook. Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerburg was in Kenya last month on a surprise visit, yesterday revealed that it will soon make it possible for users to pay for goods and services through its app --Facebook Messenger that currently has more than one billion users.

The company is reported to be working with several companies including PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and American Express to introduce the payment feature.