Tackling Coronavirus in Kenya: M-Pesa, mobile banking charges dropped

Kenya, like many other nations around the world, has put in place extraordinary measures for the wellbeing of its 47 million citizens.

Those measures, as announced by the President yesterday range from the suspension of learning in institutions across the country, limiting foreigners entering the country, self-quarantine for those that have travelled abroad recently, among others.

Given the contact nature of the spread of the particular strain of the Coronavirus that is wreaking havoc around the world and resulting in lockdowns of entire countries, the President also appealed to players in the financial services industry to lower transaction fees during the period that the country is undertaking measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“In order to avoid the risk of transmission through physical handling of money, we encourage the use of cashless transactions such as mobile money and credit cards. We appeal to mobile operators and banks to take into consideration the situation, and reduce the cost of transactions during this period,” the President said.

As a result, the Central Bank of Kenya, the financial services industry regulator in the country, moved with speed and convened a meeting of industry players to look into the appeal.

The result?

A number of changes in the way Kenyans transact on mobile money and mobile banking platforms for over 100 days.

Starting midnight tonight, till June 30th, 2020:

  • Mobile money transactions of values up to Kshs 1,000 will not be charged.
  • Mobile money transaction limits have been raised to Kshs 150,000, up from the current Kshs 70,000 per transaction limit.
  • The daily mobile money transaction limit has been raised to Kshs 300,000, up from the current Kshs 140,000
  • Mobile money transactions between Kshs 70,000 and Kshs 150,000 will be charged at the current going rate of the lower denomination. That is to say, the cost of sending Kshs 70,000 will apply for all transactions of that value all the way to the raised ceiling of Kshs 150,000.
  • Mobile money to bank account transfers will not be charged.
  • There is no limit to how much one can transact per month via mobile money.
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Safaricom has since released communication confirming these changes which have adverse effects on its mobile money platform, M-Pesa, which is the most widely used in the country.

However, in a departure from the Central Bank’s declared 100+ day period during which the above changes will be in place, Safaricom’s communication is that the changes in M-Pesa transaction charges and limits will apply for a 90-day period, as per the messages it has been sending to its users. Its position statement talks of “over 90 days”, bringing it within the CBK’s stated window.

Rival Airtel Kenya has responded with an offer to users of a 10% bonus on every airtime top-up they make from their Airtel Money wallets.

Additionally, Airtel Kenya has suspended all transaction fees on its Airtel Money service. Those transacting via Airtel Money won’t be charged any transaction fee for all amounts for 90 days starting March 17th. The company has also implemented the rest of the recommendations made by the Central Bank in full.

Another mobile operator providing financial services, Telkom Kenya, has followed Safaricom’s lead in suspending transaction charges for transactions whose value is below Kshs 1,000.

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