It’s Day One of Cash Light Public Transport payments in Nairobi, Don’t Panic, here is where to get a BebaPay card

Kenya, mobile, mobile banking and m-payments, money, payments

Officially at least, cash light public transport payments in Nairobi kick off today. In reality though , very few commuters have acquired cards, and many are clueless as how the new regulations work. Either way, looks like most people got to work this morning without the need for cards.
Here are few places where you could acquire a BebaPay card.
1. Kencom
Google-Equity BebaPay promotion agents have been stalking the stage for over a year now and it’s where I acquired my first card.
You need only top up your Beba account and the card will be issued to you free of charge.
2. On board matatus
I acquired my second BebaPay card on board a Ruiru bound bus a couple of weeks ago. Uniformed BebaPay promotion girls are a common sight on a lot of matatus on some routes, you need only top up the card. I offered to top up mine with 100 bob for instance.
The BebaPay agents are helpful and will even help you open a Google (read GMail) account if you don’t have an existing one. I had them help me open a new account as I already had a card linked to my existing Google account.
3. Equity Bank Agents
Equity’s agency network is pretty widespread and is probably your best bet. In addition, this is likely where you would be topping up your card.

It’s all systems go for cash light public transport payments tomorrow, Gov’t insists

Kenya, mobile banking and m-payments, money, payments

Transport Principal Secretary Nduva Muli is confident that cash light public transport payments will go into effect in Nairobi tomorrow without a hitch amid widespread public uncertainty and confusion.
Questions still linger over interoperability between different cards vendors, with commuters fearing that they will end up having to acquire and carry multiple cards. Recently, commuters holding BebaPay cards were surprised to discover that their cards were no good on MOA Compliant and Umoinner matatus. This was after the Matatu Owners Association dropped Google’s BebaPay in favour of it’s own Jinice 1963 application.
The National Transport and Safety Authority promised to issue regulations for integration and interoperability to relieve commuters of the need to acquire cards from multiple vendors. Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau recently published new regulations requiring cash light public transport card vendors to seek clearance from the Central Bank of Kenya. In the Kenya Gazette notice dated 11th June, the Cabinet Secretary also substituted the use of the term “cashless public transport payments” with “cash light public transport”, apparently to avoid public confusion.

BitPesa hosting World Cup Watching Party, beta launch of service

Bitcoin, Kenya, money, payments

Local Bitcoin remittances startup BitPesa will be hosting a World Cup Watching Party at Brew Bistro on Ngong Road this evening. The event will also see the beta launch of BitPesa’s service. BitPesa will provide bitings and bitcoins to the first 50 people to show up.

With the launch of its MVNO, mobile money service, Equity is responding to an existential threat

Kenya, mobile, mobile banking and m-payments, money, payments, tech

Equity Bank’s most recent foray into mobile banking, the launch of its own mobile network might be interpreted as yet another example of the bank’s impressive innovation record or C.E.O extraordinaire James Mwangi’s knack for good business. Some might wonder why a bank like Equity would want to go into the already overcrowded mobile money transfer market. A market that is dominated by de facto industry standard MPesa. In reality though the bank is responding to an existential threat.

Safaricom and CBA’s mobile banking product MShwari poses the biggest threat yet to Equity in it’s traditional target market, low income earners. MShwari is targeting the same customers that were Equity’s traditional customer base. The product is targeting the same deposits Equity relies upon thus affecting the banks ability to grow it’s liabilities. Liabilities, your deposits in the bank, are a good thing in this context.

More importantly though MShwari is affecting the bank’s ability to grow it’s asset book in the form of loans. Lending money is how Equity and other banks make their money. For quite a while now, Equity Bank has been the premier lender especially among low income earners. With the advent of MShwari more and more of Equity’s low income customers are looking to the mobile banking solution for loans.

After the failure of Safaricom and Equity’s MKesho – a product launched to much fanfare and promise- due to an apparent bust up between the two companies, Big Green decided to look beyond Equity. And they didn’t have to look far. Commercial Bank of Africa, CBA, had been Safaricom’s banker for quite a while. Money in your Mpesa account was already largely money in Safaricom’s bank account at CBA. All that was needed now was a way to funnel that money from Safaricom’s CBA bank account into your bank account. Between Safaricom’s 18 million plus Mpesa account holders and KES 220 or so billion in deposits, and CBA’s commercial banking license the two realised there was a great opportunity for a most profitable partnership. Enter MShwari.

The numbers have been impressive so far. On launch day, 75,000 new MShwari accounts were opened. By February this year Mshwari had over KES 24 billion(USD 266 million) in deposits. Total loans stood at KES 7.8 billion (USD 86.6 million). Daily deposits averaged KES 211.5 million (USD 2.35 million) with an average of 30,000 loans disbursed daily.

Mshwari enabled CBA to acquire over one million new accounts, becoming only the 6th Kenyan bank with over a million account holders. MShwari has also made micro-lending possible. The average loan amount on MShwari is around KES 1000 (USD 11) a loan that would be far too expensive for traditional banks to administer.

Earlier this week Safaricom and CBA announced “Lock” a fixed deposit account product that offers MShwari account holders the ability to save as little as KES 500 at a 6% interest per annum.

The mama mboga in Githurai who had to wait till she had a spare 50 bob to deposit it into her bank account at the local Equity bank branch – to become bankable so to speak – now need only spare 3 bob to transfer to her MShwari account.

The mama mboga also had to wait months, probably join a chamaa (a women’s group) that would co-guarantee her and amass substantial savings before she could take a KES 50.000 loan. Now with MShwari she can take a loan conveniently though interest rates , at 97% per annum are somewhat forbidding. In addition she can take a KES 250 loan “ndio aslilale njaa”,(so as not to sleep hungry), an amount she can not borrow from her bank.

For most salaried people today the first transaction you make when your salary hits the bank is a withdrawal so you can deposit money into MPesa for further transfer. Remember all those 10 bobs that are always left over in your MPesa account after you send mom money. MShwari has done a rather good job of mopping them all up lately, no?
Once your employer starts remitting your salary into your Mshwari account, how long do you think before you don’t need a bank account?

And therein lie Equity’s problems. Equity’s business model has long relied on it’s ability to raise cheap deposits en masse, and lend out these deposits en masse. Low income earners do not typically have much in savings. For a long time this made them unattractive to Kenyan banking boutiques. Until Equity came along. Equity’s genius was in converting these small amounts into highly profitable small loans. Noticed how you never actually have a zero balance in your bank account. In the hands of a bank like Equity, these relatively small amounts are worth a lot thanks to credit creation.

For the bank to survive this latest onslaught they need an MPesa equivalent. It would ensure Equity’s continued ability to raise cheap deposits, open an avenue for lending smaller amounts to a much wider market, and open a potentially lucrative new revenue stream.

Welcome to the future, a bold new mobile place where banks and telcos swap places, and the lines are blurred.

Chase Bank & Rafiki DTM ATMs, mobile banking services going down for maintenance this weekend

mobile banking and m-payments, payments, tech

This just in from Chase Bank via SMS:
Dear Customer, We will have a system maintenance from saturday 14th Midnight To Sunday 15th  at 7 am. Use of Debit Cards and mobile banking will be affected.

Subsidiary Rafiki Microfinance Bank will also be going down for maintenance:
Dear Customer, We will have a system maintenance from saturday 14th Midnight To Sunday 15th  at 7 am. Use of Debit Cards and mobile banking will be affected.

You had better clear your bar tab before 12 a.m tonight if you’re expecting to use your card tonight, or make that ungodly hour ATM withdrawal.

May in Payments: You can now pay for your power in Bitcoin in South Africa, Africa’s first Bitcoin ATM and Equity Bank finally receives a MVNO license

mobile banking and m-payments, money, payments, tech

The month of May was full of big news on the payments front all over Africa. Here’s my monthly roundup of happenings on the payment scene:
You can now pay for your power in Bitcoin in South Africa. According to local tech news site, South African firm Invirohub, a smart meter developer, has developed prepaid meters that allow you to purchase electricity using Bitcoin. The metres may be topped up by sending Bitcoins to a unique address associated with each metre.
Still in South Africa, the first Bitcoin ATM in Africa was installed in the city of Johannesburg this month. This perhaps points to the potential for the widespread use and adoption of the cryptocurrency in Africa.
In a related development, Kenyan startup BitPesa launched a pilot of its service which allows diaspora Kenyans to send money back home via Bitcoin at affordable rates. The Wall Street Journal reported that the start-up is running a pilot involving around 15 UK based Kenyans, who would be able to use BitPesa to remit money to Kenya.
Diaspora remittances are a lucrative market with Kenyans abroad sending home USD 1.29 Billion last year alone.

Equity Bank announced that they had finally received a MVNO license through their subsidiary FinServ, for their planned mobile money transfer service. The bank has entered into an agreement with Airtel Kenya that allows them use of upto 60% of Airtel’s excess capacity. The bank plans to start rolling out it’s network in July which will include giving out 8.7 million free SIM cards.

Equity announces MVNO roll out plans, bank to issue 8.7 million free SIM cards


Local daily, The Nation, reports on it’s news website today that Equity Bank will be launching it’s MVNO network in July of this year.
The bank will also be giving out 8.7 million free SIM cards. The report on the website also quotes the bank’s C.E.O Dr. James Mwangi setting pricing for Equity’s mobile money transfer service starting at 1% of the transation fee subject to a maximum cap of KES 25.
“If you send Sh100 , you will pay Sh1. If you send Sh1,000, you will pay a maximum of Sh25,” Dr. Mwangi is quoted as saying at an event to announce the bank’s MVNO strategy held Monday.
These prices obviously compare favorably with Safaricom’s popular Mpesa service. It will be interesting to see pricing wars in the mobile money market, as well as, with new competition, improved service.
Equity is set to launch it’s telecommunications services through it’s subsidiary FinServe Africa in the second half of the year. The bank will not be rolling out it’s own infrastructure, and plans to ride on Airtel Kenya’s existing infrastructure for it’s MVNO. An agreement is reportedly already in place allowing Equity to use 60% of Airtel Kenya’s existing excess capacity.

As at the time of writing this post, #EquityMVNO was interestingly trending on Kenyan Twitter

Dogecoin: Much hacked, very cause to worry

dogecoin shibe

Courtesy of Flickr user pinguino

DogeVault, an online wallet service for the popular cryptocurrency Dogecoin confirmed yesterday that it  has been hacked, with millions of Dogecoin likely missing from users’ wallets.

The statement on the free cryptocurrency wallet service’s website reads in part:

On the 11th of May, the Doge Vault online wallet service was compromised by attackers, resulting in a service disruption and tampering with wallet funds.

As soon as the administrator of Doge Vault was alerted, the service was halted. The attackers had already accessed and destroyed all data on the hosted virtual machines.

We are currently in the process of identifying the extent of the attack and potential impact on user's funds. This involves salvaging existing wallet data from an off-site backup. We will also closely be investigating potential attack vectors, and determining the security breach which enabled the attackers to compromise the service.


Dogecoin does not have the same high valuation as BitCoin with one Dogecoin currently trading at a fraction of an American dollar.

Mpesa servers finally moving to Kenya


A local newspaper, Business Daily, reported on it’s website today that Safaricom have contracted Chinese telecommunication company  Huawei in a bid to migrate their Mpesa datacentres from Germany to Nairobi. The Mpesa datacentre has been domiciled in the European country since the service’s inception. Hosting the datacentre locally is expected to eliminate service outages due to marine cable cuts.


Safaricom finally allows for reversal of erroneous M-Pesa airtime purchases


We have all been there. Your favorite uncle just sent you KES 3,500 via M-Pesa. You make a beeline for the nearest agent but instead of withdrawing the money you unwittingly purchase three thousand five hundred worth of credit. Broke, stuck with lots of airtime you didn’t need and with no recourse, a dejected you makes their way back home.

Well, Safaricom today made the announcement that they will henceforth thoughtfully allow customers to reverse erroneous purchases of airtime via M-Pesa