Competition in the mobile money transfer market is set to intensify in Kenya, with the launch of a cross-border mobile money platform by electronic payments processor Visa.
The platform will be available to all mobile users irrespective of their network, breaking the current barrier where restriction based on network has slowed uptake.
According to Visa country manager for East and Central Africa, Victor Ndlovu, the product is in the final pilot testing stages and will be introduced in October this year.
‘Mobile money is very key for us. This is one of our key growth areas,’ he said.
The platform is targeted at African markets to tap into billions in remittance funds which flow across the borders each year. Subscribers to Visa’s new mobile money product will be able to send money across borders on the company’s network, bypassing telecommunications companies. ‘We want our clients to send, receive and withdraw money without visiting any agents,’ Ndlovu said.
Remittances are of growing importance to African economies. According to the World Bank, the region receives $40 billion annually from abroad. It estimates that Kenyans receive about Sh140 billion annually, although Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) statistics are more modest, quoting Sh76 billion for 2011.
Telecommunications firms have positioned themselves to take advantage of this market. Safaricom has a service that allows users to send and receive money from the UK. However, Visa, with its extensive international network, could thwart these efforts if its mobile money platform is successful. ‘Visa has the international advantage,’ said technology analyst Eric Makau.