Airtel presses for share of Safaricom’s M-PESA platform

July 3, 2015
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The company's Chief Executive Officer Adil El Youssefi said despite Airtel being among the major service providers in the country, it was on the verge of being run down by Safaricom's monopoly/FILE
The company’s Chief Executive Officer Adil El Youssefi said despite Airtel being among the major service providers in the country, it was on the verge of being run down by Safaricom’s monopoly/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 3 – Airtel Kenya is proposing to have Safaricom’s money transfer system M-PESA made accessible to other service providers so as to equalise the market.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer Adil El Youssefi said despite Airtel being among the major service providers in the country, it was on the verge of being run down by Safaricom’s monopoly.

“Almost all the mobile money transactions are done on M-PESA and for one to access it they must have the Safaricom line, this is unfair for those subscribed to other networks. This playing field must be levelled,” said Youssefi.

He said if M-PESA was the national platform in which money transfer was conducted, then it should be independent so that any user irrespective of the mobile network can then access it.

“The mobile money platform of the dominant player is like the second currency of the country, if you want to send money or transact money for a business you have no choice despite Airtel Money providing the same for free,” noted Youssefi.

In the year ended March, Safaricom made a whooping Sh31.9 billion profit after tax making it the most profitable company in East and Central Africa and which Airtel now wants a share.

Youssefi said Kenya should borrow from other countries which had employed the system for instance Telemex and Telcel from Mexico which were dominant players in the mobile telephone industry was forced to split up after the Federal Telecommunications Institute, the country’s regulator ordered companies that dominated the nation’s telephone and broadcast television sectors to share their network infrastructure with competitors.

“When you have such a stronghold on a national resource, that National resource needs to be spun off in an independent entity so that one can use it with an Airtel line, an orange line or any other,” he added.

They called for the enforcement of dominance regulations for a prescribed period until the other small players get to a certain percentage of the market share to ensure they can sustain themselves before the regulations can be lifted as was the case of Airtel in Gabon.

“We are competing against Safaricom, we don’t have anything against success but we are saying dominance is not good,” he said.

Speaking after holding a meeting with the Senate ICT committee chaired by Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe, Youssefi urged the committee to intervene in the matter.

Kagwe on his part urged mobile service providers to collaborate to ensure Kenyans had access to the best services, saying Parliament would first consult all the players to ensure the proposed regulations do not escalate the ongoing dispute.

“There is no reason why they cannot and at the least cost possibly begin sharing telecommunication masts. Airtel has 1200 masts while Safaricom has 4000 masts across the country. We are really concerned about this equity,” said Kagwe.

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