Kenyan Telecom Giant M-Pesa Can’t Stop Growing

Safaricom is Kenya’s top mobile operator, a public limited company formed in 1997 as a fully owned subsidiary of Telkom Kenya. It’s since then been acquired by Vodafone Group Plc of the United Kingdom who owns a majority stake and management responsibility for the company while the Kenyan government retain a 35% stake. In 2007, Safaricom launched M-Pesa (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money), a service which allowed it’s users using Safaricom’s large network as a means to, deposit and withdraw money, transfer money to other users, pay bills, purchase airtime, transfer money between the service and, in some markets like Kenya, a bank account. Being one of the first mobile banking platforms in Kenya and Safaricom’s strong backing, M-Pesa has been able to dominate the mobile-money market with 18 million+ users in Kenya alone. Through Vodafone, M-Pesa has expanded to Tanzania, Egypt, South Africa, India and Eastern Europe.


Late last year, Safaricom established an innovative arm called Alpha led by Kamal Bhattacharya to help advance its objective of not being only a telecoms giant but an innovative business, nothing has been heard from the Alpha team till the launch of their first and new product, a social-network/messaging service called Bonga Sasa (which means “to chat” in colloquial Swahili). 

Bonga is a conversational and transactional social network. It’s focused on pay, play, and purpose as the three main things our research found people do on our payment and mobile network. In our [Bonga] research we’ve said ‘what can we do to build upon those three network behaviours in our network that is Safaricom? We’ll offer it for free for now, and it’s connected to M-Pesa, which is already monetized, the more these services grow and grow small businesses the more they grow M-Pesa which is already profitable. Shikoh Gitau, Alpha’s  Head of Products told TechCrunch.

Bonga in plain terms is a social platform that aims to bring the Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, PayPal, and eBay all under one channel, users will be able to create profiles, send instant messages to friends for free and while making all their transactions through a dedicated M-Pesa button.

Fact: As a telco, Safaricom­— still has 69 percent of Kenya’s mobile subscribers. Its M-Pesa fintech app―which generated $525 million of the company’s $2 billion annual revenues―boasts 27 million customers across a network of 136,000 agents. (Reported by TechCrunch)

Safaricom’s unique in that we have telco services and a financial services platform that connects nearly every household in Kenya largely on the basis of trade. We’d actually like to move beyond M-Pesa by leveraging its power as a social network to connect people to other product solutions. – Kamal Bhattacharya shared with TechCrunch.

The move to expand and innovate around M-Pesa’s network comes amid concerns from regulators over its market dominion in Kenya, Quartz Reports. Platforms like WhatsApp also have similar aims of expanding into other fields to take advantage of the growing mobile money enthusiasts by integrating mobile money banking in it’s App.


Safaricom’s thirst to innovate and create new means of keeping its market dominance and continuous expansion is a welcomed strategy of conducting business in Africa, a continent known for its nonchalance. Through companies like ride-hailing service Little Cab, music streaming service Songa, e-commerce platform Masoko, amongst others, Safaricom keeps attracting younger and more tech-savvy users to its eco-system.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.

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