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Safaricom testing MPESA across East Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – Safaricom says it is testing its money transfer platform to allow the sending and receipt of money within the East African region.

The upgrade of the M-PESA service, launched in 2007, to accept regional transfers is expected to boost trade within the East African Community.

Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore said on Thursday they were currently conducting trials in Uganda and Tanzania.

"As the market leader we continue to anticipate and meet customer needs by improving the system. Mobile commerce has become a way of life," Mr Collymore said.

Last year, Safaricom conducted an upgrade exercise on its M-PESA system that put it on a new platform with very high capacity to keep in pace with growing demand.

Mr Collymore said in the case of Tanzania, Safaricom would partner with Vodacom Tanzania where customers would be able to send money directly to any Vodacom subscriber.  In Uganda, the operator is partnering with agents to allow customers access the money.

"There is need to accelerate this thing so that people can move money freely. We are looking at Southern Sudan and how we can go there," he said.

Since its introduction four years ago, the money transfer service has attracted 13.2 million subscribers moving an estimated Sh37.7 billion in person-to-person transfers.

Mr Collymore said the new M-PESA platform had made it possible for faster transaction turnaround and ensure system stability to handle more transactions.

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Since the upgrade, Safaricom has increased its upper limit to Sh140,000 from Sh70,000 and has been partnering with different companies to increase the number of services offered.

He was speaking during the signing of a partnership with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) aimed at easing access to business development loans by M-PESA agents.

Under the agreement, M-PESA agents will readily acquire bank overdrafts and loans from KCB for business expansion and float availability at favourable rates.

Agents will be able to open a KCB M-PESA account to manage their transactions for their agency and complementary businesses.

Agents will also be able to get overdrafts to enhance their working capital requirements, as well as loan facilities to expand their businesses. 

Mr Collymore said the partnership was one among several initiatives the company has been undertaking in order to support its agents and economically empower them.

"This partnership with KCB offers us an opportunity to reach all parts of the country given their branch footprint and offer these partners the financing they need to move to the next level," he said. 

KCB Chief Executive Officer Martin Oduor-Otieno said the deal has immense capacity to grow and yield the right level of returns to investors adding that M-PESA agents and dealers will access loans from Sh2 million to Sh5 million with Safaricom holding collateral.

"These overdrafts and loan facilities will support business expansion and ensure sufficient float availability given KCB\’s strong financial muscle and wide branch network," Mr Oduor-Otieno said.

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M-PESA currently has over 22,000 agents spread across the country.

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