by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Mobile money
agents in Kenya fear loss of business once a banking institution
rolls out a cheaper cash transfer service.
belonging to Safaricom (M-pesa), Orange (Orange Money) and
Airtel (Airtel Money) are anticipating a drop in business as
consumers will troop to the cheaper service offered through thin
SIM card technology.
Agents of Safaricom, which controls over 95 per cent of the
mobile money market in Kenya, will be the worst hit.
The new service is to be offered by Equity Bank through its
The bank has already received regulatory backing from Central
Bank of Kenya and Communication Authority of Kenya and is
readying to start the service.
There have been several attempts to block the use of the thin
SIM technology in Kenya with opponents citing security concerns.
Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi said the institution would
charge transaction fees of 1 percent on all mobile money
Presently, to send and withdraw at least 11.4 dollars
costs 0. 59 U.S. dollars.
On the other hand, one pays 5 dollars to send and
withdraw between 574 dollars and 795 dollars.
The low fee to be charged by the new entrant is what is
causing worries to mobile money agents.
Their fears are exacerbated by the fact that Kenyans are
eagerly awaiting the roll-out of new service.
"If the excitement that has gripped consumers is anything
to go by, then we are going to lose business in a big way.
"Nearly every customer who is coming here to deposit or
withdraw money is talking about the new service," Martin
Bosire, a mobile money agent in Komarock estate on the east
of Nairobi, said on Sunday.
Some of the customers have even assured him that they would
flee once they get the thin SIM cards.
"The other day one of my loyal customers told me that he
had already enrolled to be given the SIM card and it is just
a matter of time before he ditches me," said Bosire.
Bosire who has two mobile money shops in the estate gets a
commission of at least 561 dollars every month.
"I have struggled to create a group of loyal customers
who came here regularly to send and withdraw money, enabling
me to get good commission but all this is now at stake."
Bosire’s fears are real. Equity Bank has about 8 million
customers, the largest in the East African nation.
Most of the bank’s customers are in the middle and low-tier
To build its customer base, the institution subsidized the
cost of its services, making them affordable to millions of
unbanked Kenyans. It is this model that it is extending to the
mobile money sector.
"It might take time for the new service to pick up, but
what is certain is that it will eat into our market," said
Dorcas Mueni, a mobile money agent in Nairobi city center.
Mueni makes up to 450 dollars in commission from mobile money
services, which she offers alongside selling women shoes and
However, the businessperson is not very much worried about
the new service as some of her colleagues, as she already has a
plan to keep herself afloat.
"Safaricom has allowed us to offer services of any other
"I will apply to offer services of the new player so that
I can forestall loss of income," she said.
The new thin SIM card will be attached to the existing ones,
saving mobile phone users need to buy a new phone.
Barthi Airtel Rwanda
launches cross-border mobile money in East Africa
KIGALI (Xinhua) --
With growing competition in mobile banking in the
telecoms sector in Rwanda, Barthi Airtel, an India mobile
operator, has launched a cross-border mobile money transactions
within the East African region, to beef up its position as a
In a statement issued here Saturday, Barthi Airtel said that
it is especially looking to harmonize the mobile money platforms
to allow its subscribers to send money across the border within
five member countries of the East African Community (EAC)
Mobile money—the use of cell phones for money transfers,
payments and more sophisticated financial activities such as
credit, savings, and insurance—is increasingly popular in East
Telecoms experts note that Mobile banking is another
milestone in achieving a cash-lite economy, where sending and
receiving money through the mobile phone is more flexible,
convenient, and faster than using cash.
Experts believe that the shift to cross-border transactions
by telecoms will help boost their revenues that have been facing
low returns in voice revenues and fragile data that is yet to be
conquered by the low cost internet usage.
Expected to be implemented soon, the Barthi Airtel’s cross-
border mobile money will come as a new tool for the leading
giant to shove off the competition from its rival MTN-Rwanda and
Tigo Rwanda which launched the same product with their sister
company in East African region
It is said that the India’s leading mobile operator has
already received a great response from customers, including
customers with family ties between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,
Rwanda and Burundi, as well as businessmen doing
"This is the result of deep understanding of consumer
needs combined with an innovative portfolio of products
including money transfers, payments, airtime reloads,
cross-border transfers and bank integration," the statement
In march 2012, Barthi Airtel launched its operation in Rwanda
in a move to expand its footprint on the African continent to 17
Ericsson, the world’s leading provider of services and
technology to telecom operators, was selected to manage the
network from end-to-end, including OSS/ BSS solutions and
Airtel has also partnered with IBM in a move that will enable
the telecom to offer superior customer experience in Rwanda.
Rwanda is among the fastest growing telecom markets in Africa
and, according to the National Statistics Institute of Rwanda,
mobile penetration in the country was at 62 percent as of August
Econet Wireless Global
acquires two African mobile firms
HARARE (Xinhua) --
Telecommunications firm Econet Wireless Global has acquired the
assets of Russian global telecoms operator, VimpelCom in Burundi
and the Central African Republic for 65 million U.S. dollars as
the telecommunications giant continues to grow its footprint in
Econet Wireless Group chief executive Craig Fitzgerald
confirmed the transaction made by VimpelCom to the Cairo Stock
VimpelCom operations in Burundi and the Central African
Republic were owned by its subsidiary Telecel Globe.
VimpelCom also owns Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile
telecommunications firm, Telecel Zimbabwe.
"Yes, I can confirm that our Mauritius registered
telecoms holding company, Econet Wireless Global, has
acquired Vimpelcom’s two operations in Burundi and Central
African Republic," said Fitzgerald.
Econet Wireless Global has operations and investments in
telecommunications businesses throughout Africa, Britain, Asia
Pacific and Latin America.
It also holds the controlling interest in Econet Wireless
Zimbabwe, which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).
Econet Wireless Global is a wholly owned subsidiary of Econet
Wireless Group, a privately held group controlled by leading
Zimbabwean industrialist Strive Masiyiwa.
Fitzgerald said the acquisition did not affect in anyway
trading by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.
"Econet Wireless Global owns a majority stake in the
Zimbabwe operation, and it is not the other way round. I
know many people make this mistake of thinking that because
our Zimbabwean subsidiary is listed, it is also the holding
company of all our businesses. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe does
not own businesses outside Zimbabwe," he said.
He said Econet Wireless Global is not a listed holding
company and had no plans to do so. Econet Wireless Global is
also the parent company of Liquid Telecom, which operates
Africa’s largest satellite and fibre optic system, with the
latter spanning 12 countries.