NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Mobile service operator Zain has finally launched its money transfer product, targeting to provide mobile banking services to more than 100 million people in East Africa.
The Zap service was launched simultaneously in Kenya and Tanzania, with plans to launch in Uganda later.
“We already have 3,000 ZAP outlets ready for transactions and over 40 percent of our customers have already registered for the service,” Zain Kenya Managing Director, Rene Mezza, said.
Mr Mezza said Zain had partnered with leading international and regional banks including Standard Chartered and Citigroup to launch the product.
He said phase one of the service had been approved for operation with Standard Chartered Bank, but Zain intended to partner with more companies in the future.
“The service will cost a flat rate of Sh10 and will allow Zain subscribers to pay bills and pay for goods and services, transfer money, send and receive money to their accounts, and withdraw cash, among other things,” Mr Mezza explained.
He said an individual could send a maximum of Sh35,000 with a limit of 25 transactions within a day.
Zap’s difference from Safaricom’s M-pesa, boasted Mr Mezza, is that it is a multi-layered product. “Its true essence is its ability to not only allow money transfers, but also put customers in touch with their bank accounts,” said Bashar Arafeh, Zain’s Chief Operating Officer for East Africa.
The service is already active on the current Zain SIM cards, while subscribers who fail to access it would only need to text the word ‘ZAP’ to 455.
Mr Mezza reassured that Zap had met all banking regulations of the respective countries adding that partners would facilitate payments and settlement processes in accordance with the individual countries’ banking regulations.
He said plans were underway to roll out the enhanced Zap services to the rest of the African and Middle East network following the East African launch.
Pilots for the launch of this program begun in October last year among 50,000 of the mobile company’s subscribers
Mr Mezza added that Zap will also be part of the company’s one network service, meaning that Zain customers across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will be able to send airtime to each other.
Zain Africa Chief Executive Officer Chris Gabriel expressed confidence that the mobile company would tap 80 to 90 percent of the East African population that does not have access to banking services.
“Your wallet of yesterday will fundamentally become your mobile phone of today,” Mr Gabriel said.
Zain started 2007 with a significant dip in subscriber numbers and profits, but by the end of 2008, a new tariff structure and renewed marketing efforts had seen the company increase its market share from an all time low of just over one million to the current three million.