Boon or Bane?

For Kenyan Fintech Startups, Safaricom Is Both A Blessing And A Curse

September 30, 2020

If the gist is about Africa’s top brands, then Safaricom is definitely part of the conversation. After all, the listed Kenyan mobile network operator is, in fact, the most valuable firm in East Africa and the 10th largest company in Africa by market cap.

But here’s the gist, though, Safaricom is no regular telco. If anything, it is more. And that “more” part is what makes things somewhat complicated, especially for a class of much smaller and obviously much less powerful companies in Kenya. 

Safaricom identifies as a telco but its strides in digital financial services inexcusably position the company as both the nightmare and sweet dream of Kenyan fintech startups, at the same time.

That structural “conflict of interest” sets up a sticky situation; one that perpetually favours Safaricom while advertently or inadvertently stifling fintech startups, especially.

Besides being the leading telecom service provider in the largest and most advanced economy in East and Central Africa, Safaricom is also the feudal lord of Kenya’s fintech fiefdom.

As gatekeeper and fief-in-charge, Safaricom basically holds the keys to fintech innovation in one of Africa’s most recognized...

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