Safaricom and Vodacom (Tanzania) subscribers can now exchange money through the M-Pesa platform, thanks to a new partnership between the two operators, opening a new frontier for the mobile money service.
The deal will enable seamless transactions between Kenya’s nearly 20 million and Tanzania’s seven million M-Pesa users.
This comes at a time when the five East African Community (EAC) member states are seeking to integrate seamless financial transactions, with a call for more platforms enhancing exchange of money via technology.
“This is a new chapter in the continuing growth story of M-Pesa.
“Enabling transactions between Kenya and Tanzania will make more convenient for individuals to transact across borders and unleash the transformative power of a first of its kind cross-border payment system,” said Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore.
The move will support the countries’ bid of deepening financial inclusion and give a further boost to the regional integration agenda.
Tanzania’s banking regulator Bank of Tanzania (BoT) is riding on mobile money platforms to implement its financial inclusion framework aimed at focusing on priorities such as payment systems, infrastructure and consumer protection. The central bank targets to push the formal financial inclusion to 50 per cent by 2016, up from 22 per cent.
Vodacom and Tigo Tanzania recently signed a mobile money interoperability agreement allowing their customers to transact across the two mobile money platforms. Tigo Pesa has four million users.
Benno Ndulu, BoT governor singled out mobile phones as "one of the most critical links" between the unbanked population and financial services.
“The challenge is now to connect those people with the formal banking sector,” he said.
According to a report by Alliance for Financial Inclusion, a global network of financial inclusion policymakers, use of digital financial services will continue to be one of the key drivers for bringing on board the unbanked populace.
The report points out agent banking as one of the drivers. M-Pesa rides on agents who are spread across its countries of operations. Safaricom for instance has over 81,000 M-Pesa agent outlets countrywide.
With presence in 10 countries – Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Lesotho, DRC, Egypt, Mozambique, India, Romania, and Fiji – M-Pesa can enhance trade across its countries of operations.