Literally making bank

Kenya’s Top Telco Takes More Turf As ‘Unofficial Largest Bank And Fintech’

By  |  October 13, 2021

In its recently released Sustainability Report 2021, Safaricom – the company that commands a market share of over 63 percent in Kenya’s telecoms industry – put out some up-to-date data on its ever-widening fintech ecosystem.

Safaricom enjoys a pretty much untouchable lead at the top of Kenya’s telecoms market where it offers a range of services that cut across mobile telephony and fibre optic services. However, it is its footprints in digital financial services that have yielded the most buzz over the last few years.

The Safaricom-powered mobile money service, M-Pesa, for instance, is known to have progressively evolved from a simple local money transfer platform into a multi-purpose fintech ecosystem over the last 7 or so years. And it appears the telco has built a fintech business that has developed beyond digital wallets and now even outdoes every commercial bank and fintech company in Kenya.

By itself, M-Pesa controls nearly the entire mobile money market in Kenya where it enjoys a 98 percent market share. In fact, M-Pesa processed the equivalent of half of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on its platform in 2019.

Additionally, the M-Pesa platform also houses a wide variety of fintech products and features catering to various fintech segments such as lending, savings, investments, payments, etc.

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One such product is Fuliza; a lending platform launched in partnership with Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) and the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group. Another is M-Shwari; a banking product that provides micro-savings for M-Pesa users also offered in partnership with the CBA. Also, Safaricom powers its very own wealthtech/wealth management platform known as Mali; a product that is an investment tool designed to allow M-Pesa users to invest fixed amounts, starting from as little as KES 100.00 (USD 0.94), and earn specific returns.

Despite the shrinking of balances in consumer wallets during a rough economic period in the past year, Safaricom reports gains in M-Pesa users and agents, further strengthening its already dominant position in the mobile money market.

In its Sustainability Report for 2021, the telco reports that M-Pesa users are up by 13.6 percent, totalling 28 million monthly active users, who can be served by any of the 247, 869 M-PESA agents across the country – more than the number of bank accounts and bank branches in Kenya.

Safaricom’s agent network, which helps customers to register for M-Pesa, deposit, and make mobile money withdrawals, registered a 43 percent growth.

Apart from that, Safaricom’s eight-year-old savings and credit service, M-Shwari, has now hit an all-time high in customer deposits, as reported by the telco. 

M-Shwari’s deposit figures have now surpassed savings in the country’s top banks, having risen by 78.5 percent in just one year; rising from KES 320 Bn as of last year to KES 571 Bn in 2021.

This growth then means that Kenyans have deposited KES 687.95 Mn daily on average. This is about 2.3 times the amount of daily savings that was reported in the previous year.

“An increasing number of Kenyans are making use of this service, as indicated by the fact that deposits have more than doubled over the last four years,” reads a portion of Safaricom’s latest Sustainability Report.

As reported by Business Daily, the M-Shwari deposits exceed the KES 569.27 Bn and KES 431.44 Bn in savings held at two of the country’s biggest banks, KCB Bank Kenya and Equity Bank Kenya, reported respectively at the end of March. M-Shwari’s deposits also eclipse the KES 330.09 Bn savings in 21 small Kenya banks by the end of December 2020.

The significant increase can be attributed to a step up in savings by Kenyans across the country as they cut their borrowing via M-Shwari by 27 percent to KES 94.5 Bn. This means Kenyans on the platform saved up to six times more than they tapped loans.

As it stands, Kenya’s and indeed East Africa’s biggest telco, Safaricom, is quite literally making bank; one that surpasses every other financial services company in Kenya – en route to cementing its place as a big telco and bigger fintech machine on the African continent.

And Safaricom’s continued dominance on two major fronts continues to spark conversations around monopolistic practices and proposals aimed at splitting the increasingly profitable and powerful company.

Featured Image Courtesy: Cointelegraph

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