Safaricom launches Kshs 20 per day smartphone, targets 1 million new 4G users

Safaricom has today unveiled its much-anticipated Kshs 20 per day smartphone.

The device, which is the Safaricom Neon Ray Pro, will be made available to Safaricom subscribers currently using 2G smartphones.

According to Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, the initiative, dubbed Lipa Mdogo Mdogo and made possible by partnering with Google, purposes to bridge the digital divide in the country.

According to the Communications Authority of Kenya statistics, 4G handset penetration in the country stands at a paltry 17% even though the country’s mobile penetration, at 116%, is one of the highest in the world.

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With an investment of Kshs 36 billion on its network and a 77% 4G network coverage across the country that it aims to increase to over 90% by year’s end, Safaricom is looking to reverse that trend by offering an affordable smartphone and bring onboard at least 1 million users “to access and leverage the power of the internet”.

With Safaricom’s data rates dropping by 28% in the previous year, resulting in an increase of 47% in data usage by its over 35 million subscribers, the company’s next frontier is making sure as many of its subscribers as possible are able to use its data products.

“Cheaper data is of no use if our customers cannot use it,” Ndegwa said during the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo launch.

The Safaricom Neon Ray Pro is a basic smartphone, just like the others that we have seen under Safaricom’s Neon smartphone lineup like the recently-unveiled Neon Kicka 5. It features just 1GB memory, 16GB onboard storage, 4G connectivity and is powered by the Go edition of Android 10.

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For one to be eligible to purchase the Safaricom Neon Ray Pro under the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo programme, they will need to satisfy a number of conditions:

  • Be 18 years of age and above
  • Have been a Safaricom subscriber for at least year
  • Be an active subscriber i.e. using Safaricom services like M-Pesa, calls etc
  • Have been using a 2G smartphone prior to requesting to join the programme

Requests to purchase the device under the programme can be made through the *544# shortcode and navigating to the device financing option (Lipa Mdogo Mdogo). Thereafter, an assessment of the customer making the request is made on Safaricom’s end to determine their suitability. Those deemed eligible will then be notified by Safaricom (via SMS) to proceed to the nearest Safaricom shop to pick their device.

At the shop, one will have to part with a Kshs 1,000 downpayment. They will be expected to pay Kshs 20 every day (via M-Pesa, of course) for the following 9 months without fail. Should they fail to do so, the smartphone will be locked until they make the payment (there is a 3-day grace period). This is the same arrangement that we have seen before. In the end, one will end up paying about Kshs 6,500 which is just about Kshs 500 more than they would if they were to buy the Neon Ray Pro at the full price currently.

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