In an extremely unsurprising piece of news, Airtel has supported proposed regulations by the Central Bank of Kenya that seeks to open up
mobile payment services for use by all providers.
CBK last week published the National Payment System Draft Regulations that among others recommend that e-money issuers shall utilise open systems capable of being accessed and operated by other payment systems in the country and internationally. The same shall apply to electronic retail transfers.
This means that Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform may soon be open for use by other mobile payment services providers bringing to an end the mobile company’s dominance of the mobile money market which has locked many subscribers to its network.
“We envisage that the introduction of money transfer interoperability between operators will afford the subscribers the flexibility of liquidating their e-value at any cash merchant as well as seamless transfer of funds from one network to another on a real time basis,” Airtel said.
Airtel argues that money transfer cross operation will give the mobile subscribers in Kenya an opportunity to transact funds seamlessly and liquidate their e-cash at any merchant without being discriminated against on the basis of which network they subscribe to.
“This will ultimately lead to the improvement of one of the core principles in financial inclusion which advocates for reach for everyone,” the company said.
Currently subscribers of all networks cannot experience real time transfer of funds from one network to the other. Airtel customers can for instance only receive an SMS indicating that they have received some cash from another operator, but their e-accounts are not immediately credited with the cash received. The subscribers can only liquidate the e-cash at designated agents of their operator.
Airtel said the new regulations will deter operators from playing upon their sizes to have quasi exclusive agreements with the agents.
Safaricom has declined to comment on the new regulations saying it would be premature. The company has however openly opposed them in the past arguing that it cannot invest too much on its M-Pesa agency network only for other operators to come and ride on its network. It has also claimed that this will slow down the system and kill innovation.