East Africa Data Centre announces KES 1BN Expansion

tech

East Africa Data Centre, the only Tier 3 secure electronic data centre in east and central Africa, has today announced a Ksh1bn expansion to meet rack space demand that initially forced it to ration allocations to customers. Unveiling the second and third floors of the data centre, the East Africa Data Centre announced that the centre would now be extended to four floors, totalling 2000 square metres.
The data centre, which now houses Kenya’s Internet Exchange Point, has been credited by the global Internet Society as a key factor in driving down internet prices in Kenya, to among the lowest in Africa. The East Africa Data Centre hosts the Points of Presence for global carriers with international coverage, including Tata, Level3, Seacom, and Liquid Telecom, as well as carriers owning fibre network infrastructure, including Safaricom, JamiiTelcom, Access Kenya, Orange Telkom Kenya Ltd, Wananchi Online, and Frontier Optical Network.
It is further playing a key role in enabling financial and corporate organisations to hold data securely, protecting them in the event of cyber crime and offering 24/7 secure housing for their data and back-ups.
“The East Africa Data Centre has transformed how data traffic is handled in the region. By providing a central point for interconnect services, it has reduced latency, improved data services, reduced costs and made it easier to transfer data across networks,” said Dan Kwach, General Manager East Africa Data Centre.
“By keeping African data in Africa we continue to help reduce the costs of internet access while creating an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurial culture in the field of ICT and local businesses,” said Mr Kwach.
Within six months of starting, it had fully sold Phase 1 of the centre’s rack space – which houses the servers holding data – amounting to the entire first floor. It has now opened another 500 sq m floor, which is already 90 per cent occupied, and with the third floor already prepped for occupancy, East Africa Data Centre unveiled plans to expand to the fourth floor immediately, to cater for demand.
“We had to ration the rack space when we were selling the first floor due to huge demand, until we could get the second floor built and operational and the third floor ready to go quickly. The second floor took roughly 8 months, but now we have the space ready, we can move much quicker and customers can buy the amount they want,” said Mr Kwach. The accelerated expansion in EADC’s rack space has benefitted the local engineering and construction services sector, with all of the contractors for the expansion sourced locally. It also comes amid growing concern for data security. In late 2013, Kenya’s Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiangi, raised the flag on estimates that the country would lose an estimated KSh 2 billion (about US$23 million) through cyber crime, with the number of cyber attacks detected in Kenyan cyberspace more than doubling last year to 5.4m attacks, compared to 2.6m in 2012. Uganda, which last year reported a surge in economic crimes, up 14.9 per cent, singled out cybercrime, principally in mobile money and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fraud, as responsible for the loss of about USH1.5bn (Ksh51m), while Bank of Tanzania (BoT) statistics indicate TZS 1.3bn (Ksh69.5) has been stolen across the country through cyber fraud, according to the Kenya Cyber Security Report 2014.
Financial institutions are also introducing potentially vulnerable web and mobile applications, with a recent study that sampled 33 online banking portals finding that only 2 of the 33 portals sampled had adequate online security deployed on their web application. As a result, many financial institutions are now looking into EADC to store their data, reported the Kenya Cyber Security Report 2014.
“Banks and financial institutions are the second largest type of occupant at the East Africa Data Centre, at about 30 per cent. With about 43 banks in Kenya, the demand for highly secure stable environments like ours, for use as disaster recovery, high-availability, or primary sites, has been rising,” said Mr Kwach.
East Africa Data Centre recently signed a collaboration agreement with Teraco Data Environments in South Africa to share synergies between the two Data Centre Operators and improve EADC’s efficiency and maximise on available investment opportunities.

East Africa Data Centre, a carrier-neutral data centre in Nairobi, is the largest in East Africa, offering secure and reliable space for dedicated hosting, interconnect services, collocation, disaster recovery, network-based services, applications and cloud services. A Tier 3 data centre, built to international standards, it is the only purpose-built data centre in East Africa.
East Africa Data Centre is an independent company within The Liquid Telecom Group with a dedicated management team.

Equity officially launches Equitel, claims subscribers hit one million mark

mobile banking and m-payments

micro sim cards

Equity Bank officially launched their payment focused MVNO, Equitel today. Questions still abound over the functioning of the MVNO’s thin sims though. Equitel’s plan to employ thin sim technology has been the subject of litigation over the past year. Incumbent market leader Safaricom has raised questions about the security and legality of the proposed technology. It is not clear whether the thin sims will be able to function on their own or a secondary sim card will be required as a base for them to fit into mobile phone sim slots. Equitel currently issues subscribers with regular sim cards. The MVNO claims to have signed up a  million subscribers pre-launch. The bank is billing it’s MVNO as a new mobile payment and banking platform for its customers that is officially designed to bring to the fore the convergence between mobile and banking services in Kenya.

“The unveiling of this new platform is part of our 30 year journey of promoting financial inclusion. Our aim is to raise the number of Kenyans with access to banking services to 90 percent and above,” said Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi in a press release issued by the bank.

In the press release the bank further stated:

At the same time, the bank unveiled 0764 prefix after hitting one million customers on the 0763 prefix during the pilot phase.

“Equitel is providing the bank with another opportunity to continue our mission of offering inclusive, innovative, customer-focused financial services that transform livelihoods, give dignity and expand opportunities,” said Dr. Mwangi adding on that the company has put up an elaborate plan to further boost financial inclusion that transcends limitation of banking time and location.

The new platform eliminates the need for mobile applications in accessing internet banking as even a simple feature phone will work in a similar manner like a sophisticated smart phone further demystifying financial services.

“Internet banking has been a preserve of a few but now with Equitel this will be a mass market offering. It will enable all customers to conveniently access their bank accounts for 24 hours 7 days a week,” said Dr. Mwangi. The Equitel platform will make banking services more accessible, flexible, convenient and more affordable.

It is also a unique and universal platform that is interoperable with other systems hence users will not only be able to securely send and receive money on the Equitel network but also from other banks and mobile money platforms such as Airtel Money, Orange Money and MPESA.

Equitel, money transfer from one mobile phone or bank account to another within the Equity ecosystem will be done free of charge.

Therefore, Equitel will not only bring full mobility to banking by simplifying the payments and transactions process but will also be key in further reducing the cost of mobile and banking services –enabling greater inclusion for all Kenyans and beyond.

“We will be leveraging on the bank’s presence across the region to roll out Equitel and this is the basis of optimism of attaining a subscriber base of over five million by end of 2015,” Dr. Mwangi added.

Customers can visit any Equity Bank branch countrywide to obtain their SIM cards from a choice of standard size SIM, micro and nano and thin SIM based on their requirements.

“Customers can call 100 on their Equitel line for support from a fully resourced contact centre with customer care representatives who have been fully trained to manage customer enquiries 24/7,” he added.

Equitel is the first platform in Kenya and in Africa to offer a full banking suite without building new mobile infrastructure. Commonly known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), the service combines mobile and banking in a fresh, ground breaking way.

Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria lauded Equity Bank on the innovation and said the company was proud to serve as partner operator for the Equitel platform.

“Equitel services are already running on our network and we are delighted to work with Equity Bank to pioneer this innovation in Kenya,” said Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria.

According to Dr. Mwangi, Equitel becomes a value addition for Airtel as the latter will provide telecom services including voice, SMSs and data services for the platform.

Additionally, Equitel will further financial inclusion by offering members a range of banking products such as loans, cross boarder transfers, insurance and investment services. Equitel customers can also receive diaspora remittances onto their accounts and access it directly through their mobile phone.

Equitel is available to all Equity Bank account holders and provides a perfect means to enjoy control and freedom of choice. For those who are not members they can easily open an Equity account by dialling *247# on any mobile phone.”

As the bank launched its MVNO, some on Twitter were wagering that Safaricom might release thicker sim cards to ward off the threat of SIM cards.Equity Bank officially launched their payment focused  MVNO Equitel today. Questions still abound over the functioning of the MVNO’s thin sims. Equitel’s plan to employ thin sim  technology has been the subject of litigation over the past year. Incumbent market leader Safaricom raising questions about the security and legality of the proposed technology.  It is not clear whether the thin sims will be able to fucntion on their own or a secondary sim card will be required for them to fit into mobile phone sim slots. Equitel currently issues subscribers with regular sim cards. Equitel currently claims a million subcribers. The bank is billing it’s MVNO as a  new mobile payment and banking platform for its customers –that officially designed  to bring to the fore the convergence between mobile and banking services in Kenya.

“The unveiling of this new platform is part of our 30 year journey of promoting financial inclusion. Our aim is to raise the number of Kenyans with access to banking services to 90 percent and above,” said Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi in a press release issued by the bank.

In the press release the bank further stated:

“At the same time, the bank unveiled 0764 prefix after hitting one million customers on the 0763 prefix during the pilot phase.

“Equitel is providing the bank with another opportunity to continue our mission of offering inclusive, innovative, customer-focused financial services that transform livelihoods, give dignity and expand opportunities,” said Dr. Mwangi adding on that the company has put up an elaborate plan to further boost financial inclusion that transcends limitation of banking time and location.

The new platform eliminates the need for mobile applications in accessing internet banking as even a simple feature phone will work in a similar manner like a sophisticated smart phone further demystifying financial services.

“Internet banking has been a preserve of a few but now with Equitel this will be a mass market offering. It will enable all customers to conveniently access their bank accounts for 24 hours 7 days a week,” said Dr. Mwangi. The Equitel platform will make banking services more accessible, flexible, convenient and more affordable.

It is also a unique and universal platform that is interoperable with other systems hence users will not only be able to securely send and receive money on the Equitel network but also from other banks and mobile money platforms such as Airtel Money, Orange Money and MPESA.

Equitel, money transfer from one mobile phone or bank account to another within the Equity ecosystem will be done free of charge.

Therefore, Equitel will not only bring full mobility to banking by simplifying the payments and transactions process but will also be key in further reducing the cost of mobile and banking services –enabling  greater inclusion for all Kenyans and beyond.

“We will be leveraging on the bank’s presence across the region to roll out Equitel and this is the basis of optimism of attaining a subscriber base of over five million by end of 2015,” Dr. Mwangi added.

Customers can visit any Equity Bank branch countrywide to obtain their SIM cards from a choice of standard size SIM, micro and nano and thin SIM based on their requirements.

“Customers can call 100 on their Equitel line for support from a fully resourced contact centre with customer care representatives who have been fully trained to manage customer enquiries 24/7,” he added.

Equitel is the first platform in Kenya and in Africa to offer a full banking suite without building new mobile infrastructure. Commonly known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), the service combines mobile and banking in a fresh, ground breaking way.

Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria lauded Equity Bank on the innovation and said the company was proud to serve as partner operator for the Equitel platform.

“Equitel services are already running on our network and we are delighted to work with Equity Bank to pioneer this innovation in Kenya,” said Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria.

According to Dr. Mwangi, Equitel becomes a value addition for Airtel as the latter will provide telecom services including voice, SMSs and data services for the platform.

Additionally, Equitel will further financial inclusion by offering members a range of banking products such as loans, cross boarder transfers, insurance and investment services. Equitel customers can also receive diaspora remittances onto their accounts and access it directly through their mobile phone.

Equitel is available to all Equity Bank account holders and provides a perfect means to enjoy control and freedom of choice. For those who are not members they can easily open an Equity account by dialling *247# on any mobile phone.”

As the bank launched its MVNO, some on Twitter were wagering that Safaricom might release thicker sim cards to ward off the threat of SIM cards.

Nekfeu has the best verse in all hip hop right now!

tech

The third verse from Nekfeu’s smash hit "On Verra" is the stuff of poetic gold.

An English translation from lyricstranslate.com/en/verra-well-see.html is provided below. If you parlez Francaise feel free to improve the translation.

Nos corps fonctionnent à l’envers, on marche avec des têtes
On se sent avec un regard et on joue avec les nerfs
Moi, je parle avec les mains, parfois j’pense avec ma…
Mais je touche avec mes pensées et j’écris avec le cœur
J’en ai…

[ENGLISH]
Our bodies operate in reverse, we walk with heads
We smell with looks and we play on your nerves
Me, I speak with my hands, sometimes I think with my…
But I touch with my thoughts and I write with my heart
Yes I do…

This Hip Hop jam, from the l’entourage/1995 French rapper is definitely the anthem this summer, and probably for many summers to come.

The X Files is back

tech

Folks growing up in Nairobi will no doubt recall watching The X Files on KTN. The dynamic detective duo of the skeptical FBI Special Agent Scully and Special Agent Mulder , the believer, had us at intervals terrified, baffled and fascinated for several seasons. It got many a curious young mind wondering about what was out there. Was there life on other planets? Or were we the only ones in this vast universe? Was the truth really out there?
David Duchovny went to have even more TV success playing the hedonistic writer Hank Moody in the series Californication.
You will also no doubt remember the terrible faux pas that was fishermen on a beach in Ivory Coast speaking in Swahili (looking at you FOX).
No doubt all will be forgiven in January next year when the show that last aired in 2002, makes a comeback. The X Files Reboot is returning to FOX for six episodes and scenes from the revival leaked onto the internet today. FOX will be re-airing the original series ahead of its return.
I have reservations about these kinds of reprises. V, another venerable childhood favorite was turned into a steaming pile of dung in its second reincarnation on ABC. An exception will however be made for Scully and Mulder. I expect the new X-Files not to suck. The original series will probably still remain the greatest sci fi horror drama ever made though.
Which reminds me, Capital FM ran a X-Files parody for several years that was funny as hell. Does anyone remember the name of the radio series? Sharon? CK? Anyone?

Uber set to start accepting cash, mobile payments in Kenya

tech

It’s 2 am on Saturday morning and you are leaving the rave somwhere in Nairobi’s Westlands. You fish out your phone, and attempt to request an Uber. "Card rejected" reads the response. The bank just stood in the way of your and your money. Your card has been rejected. And of course Uber does not take Mpesa payments.

"Why couldn’t Uber just have talked to Safaricom and got them to implement an Mpesa API?" You think to yourself. "Or why couldn’t Uber just talk the banks into making card payments easier? It’s a B2B issue."

If you are reading this in Kenya, your bank sucks.
It is not news to you. You know it. They know it. They know you know it. And your Mpesa agent knows it.

Card payments are one aspect where Kenyan banks are just plain pathetic. It gets even worse when you try to use your card to pay for an Uber.The terrible state of card payments in Kenya has no doubt held back the growth of the online taxi hailing service since it launched in Kenya last year.

Well, Uber announced this week that they are testing cash and mobile payments.
Last month Uber start accepting cash in the Indian city of Hyderabad. In April Uber started accepting cash payments for the first time for it’s rickshaw hailing service in another Indian market, Delhi.

You will now be able to pay cash for your ride. You may also pay through mobile money services such as MPesa and Airtel Money. Under the plan, each Uber driver will have an individual Lipa Na Mpesa till number or Airtel Money account.

Local competitors such as Rocket Internet backed Easy Taxi and Mara Moja already accept cash and mobile payments.

Big Box or Big Hoax? If you are thinking of purchasing the Safaricom Big Box this weekend, don’t

tech

If you are thinking of purchasing the Safaricom Big Box this weekend, don’t.

I arrived home excited with my shiny new Safaricom Big Box a couple of weeks ago. At the Safaricom shop I had inquired about antennas, and the set top box’s DVB-T2 functionality. I was concerned specifically about it’s ability to work with my building’s common antenna. As is often the case, I soon realized I had been worried about the wrong thing altogether.

Straight out of the box, the Big Box picked up all the available digital channels. The initial setup was pretty straight forward to my pleasant surprise. After connecting the box to the common antenna, and an initial scan, I now had digital TV. I could access channels carried on Signet, free to air PANG , ADN and even a couple of Bamba channels. Nice. I could watch DW and Al Jazeera courtesy of Bamba. I had access to the local Big 3, Citizen, NTV and KTN. So far, so good.

Then came the hard bit. Connecting to the Internet.

Of course if I had wanted to watch TV, I could just have copped a Bamba TV set top box. What drew me to the Big Box, was internet access, and the prospect of free YouTube.

I selected YouTube from the menu, and was somewhat disappointed to find that there was no YouTube app. What was there was a browser window that linked to YouTube.com. I could live with that, I thought.

And there it was. Glorious YouTube. For a whole 5 minutes. Then it all took a turn for the worse. I attempted to view a video. The video would not load. I got an network connectivity failure error instead. A second attempt failed. I tried to connect to the Internet from the default Android browser. This failed too.

I contacted Safaricom’s fairly responsive Twitter customer care team. I received a call a little later from a Safaricom customer care representative. I was advised to reset the box. I dutifully did so, but then nothing. I was still unable to connect to YouTube. Or to the Internet for that matter.
I complained to customer care again. This time after a long phone conversation I was asked to go to “Settings” and provide the rep with the Big Box’s IP address. I was then advised to disconnect from 3G/4G and reconnect. I had been assigned a new IP address.

I was able to connect to the Internet for a full 15 minutes. After that my connection went to shit. I was unable to connect to the Internet at all.

I contacted customer care a third time. This was quickly turning into some sort of terrible joke.

In the 18 days since, I have spoken to customer care on a dozen different occasions. To my dismay, I have learnt what anyone who has dealt with Safaricom’s customer care on a few occasions knows. Safaricom customer care have a script. Switch off the box, switch it back on. Disconnect from 3G. Switch to wired. Turn off the box. Turn it back on. We will escalate with our network team and revert. Meaningless platitudes. Rarely does anything get resolved. It’s good PR, but little more.

Safaricom’s 3G network is excellent in my area. I have gotten speeds of upto 245KBps on a phone that I had placed on top of the set top box. So there was no weird network vortex or “dark spot” where I had positioned the Big Box. So why couldn’t I connect to the Internet, I kept asking.

A visit to the Safaricom Shop I had purchased the box from established that my line was yet to be registered. I had provided ID when I purchased the box, and filled and signed a registration form. The line had not been registered two weeks on. There was also an issue with the tariff I was on, I was informed. Taking two weeks to register a line was unacceptable they concurred. I was given 650 MB of data to get me through the night, as my issues were being resolved.

The fact that Safaricom’s customer care hadn’t realized in 2 weeks of calls that my Big Box line was not registered is in itself perplexing. Safaricom’s right hand didn’t seem to know what it’s left hand was doing. Or simply didn’t care.

The situation had not improved a week later, and I visited the store again. My line had not yet been registered. This time I ensured that they had registered the line while I was in store. I also confirmed that the 6GB bundle I had purchased along with the box was intact.

I went back home and finally after 16 days, a dozen calls to customer care and 3 visits to the Safaricom store where I bought the box, I was able to connect to the internet.

But wait there is more.

I managed to watch just the one video. Attempts to connect to the device’s hot spot from my laptop failed. I switched off the Big Box and reconnected to Safaricom’s 3G network again. Finally I was able to connect to the Internet from my laptop via the Big Box’s hot spot. A few minutes later I ran into a new, annoying hurdle. Safaricom’s weird traffic shaping seemed to disconnect me from the 3G network once my usage hit 100 MB or so. I then had to disconnect and reconnect to the network so I that I could be assigned a new IP. This involved switching off the box on occasion and disrupting any TV viewing in the living room. For folks that are offering free YouTube, the 100MB cap is bizarre. How many YouTube videos are those?

I wonder what exactly could be gained by cutting off access for people who are paying for their internet by the megabyte once they hit a certain cap. I would be okay with Safaricom limiting access to free YouTube. But limiting access to my email on a bundle I paid for is infuriating.

Safaricom sells the Big Box as a smart media consumption device with great internet connectivity and free YouTube for the first three months.

What you do get with the Safaricom Big Box is a DVB -T2 set top box with PVR functionality. The PVR functionality means you can record TV shows and view them later. The box also comes with built in DLNA support so you can connect to your UPnP media server, though I am yet to test this.

The TV watching experience is not without annoyances. Blinking message envelopes keep popping up on your screen. You will have to go to the menu, leaving your enjoyable Mexican telenovella, to access these cryptic messages. The messages themselves read like AT commands, and they typically mean nothing to you. So why would anyone want to be notified of AT commands being sent to their device again, Safaricom?

The box itself is pretty standard set top box/mini PC fare. It runs Android 4.x. There is no information in the settings on the exact version of Android it is running or the kernel. The box comes with 1 GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. These specs read like those of the average Alcatel One Touch phone. It has an SD card slot if you need extra storage. OTG works great on the device so you could just plug in a flash disk or hard disk via the single USB port. The SIM card is internal meaning you are locked to Safaricom’s network.

It works fine as a router too. But then, so does your stock Android handset.

I have since learnt that I had purchased The Big Box the day after it’s launch. I have been punished accordingly for that mistake. It has been one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had with any device.

The Big Box looks increasingly like a hurried product. There are so many kinks, network or otherwise, that are yet to be worked out. You are supposed to dial *422# to check your bundle balance but I am yet to come across a dialer on the device. Calls to the 422 customer care number do not go through. I doubt that any Safaricom engineers actually took the box home with them for testing. I find the internet connectivity bits particularly irksome.

Zuku and company need not fret it seems. Judging from my experience, Safaricom isn’t about to eat anyone’s lunch.

Acute Water Shortage Hits Ruaka After Nairobi Water reportedly cuts off local Water Service Provider’s Supply

as told by moshe, Kenya

Ruaka has been experiencing an acute water shortage since Saturday last week. The Nairobi Water and Sewarage company reportedly cut off supply to the Karuri Water and Sewarage Company over a billing dispute. The Karuri Water and Sewarage Company supplies the entire former Karuri Township area including Ruaka. Karuri Township is located in Kiambu county, just North West of Nairobi. Karuri Water and Sewarage in turn receives its supply from the Nairobi Water and Sewarage Company. Nairobi Water’s main reservoir, Ndakaine Dam, is located in Kiambu.
No official communication has been issued by the Karuri Water Company yet. The status of the dispute is unknown, and it’s not clear whether the Water Service Providers are working on a resolution.
In the meantime Ruaka residents have been bitten hard by lack of water. Residents have to part with as much as KES 50 for a 20 litre jerrican of the precious commodity.
All this in the middle of massive floods hitting the greater Nairobi area and a cholera outbreak in the country.

Government bans remittance services in wake of Garissa massacre

tech

The Government of Kenya announced this week a ban on several remittance services. The remittance firms were among individuals and entities alleged to finance terror in an official list published Wednesday by the police.This comes in the wake of a brutal attack on students at Garissa University College,that resulted in at least 147 casualties. The Somali militant group, Al Shabaab considered a terrorist outfit by the Kenyan government claimed responsibility for the attack. The government appears to be of the view that the proscribed money transfer systems are widely used by Al Shabaab’s sympathisers and financiers.
The services are said to be popular among businessmen in Nairobi’s Eastleigh district. Somali money transfer services typically charge lower commissions than larger services. Fees are often in the range of 3–4% for amounts over USD 1000, significantly lower than the 7.1% — 7.2% percent charged by Money Gram,
Dahabshiil, literally “gold smelter” is probably the most well known of these services. The service has a prominently placed outlet on Kimathi Street, Nairobi.
Founded in Burco, Somalia in 1970, the firm grew quickly to become the largest of the Somali diaspora’s money transfer services. Currently headquartered in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Dahabshiil claims over 24,000 outlets and nore than 2000 employees in 144 countries. Dahabshiil claimed revenues of over USD 300 million in 2009. Once a general trading concern, the firm found success in the remittance business during the 1970s, benefitting from growing numbers of Somali migrant workers in the Gulf sending money back home. The service used a trade based Franco Valuta system to great effect in the face of government foreign exchange controls in Somalia. Under the Franco Valuta system goods are imported,and proceeds from their sale are sent to migrant’s families.
Dahabshiil opened it’s first office in London in the late nineteen eighties, quickly gaining currency among Somalis who had moved to Britain fleeing the Somali civil war.
Dahabshiil is no stranger to controversy. There have been internet reports that a Dahabshiil money transfer agemt was detained in Guantamo Bay from 2002 to 2009. The firm is said to have hired a lobbying and PR firm to manipulate Google rankings to ensure that the results did not feature prominently in search results. In 2011, popular Somali musician and politician Saado Warsame is reported to have released a protest song “Dhiigshiil ha dhigan” (loosely “Don’t Use Dahabshiil”).In the song Warsame refers to Dahabshiil as a “blood smelter”.
The firm struck a deal last year with Barclays Bank after a long running dispute with the bank. In May 2013, Barclays had announced that it would terminate the accounts of Dahabshiil, along with numerous smaller Somali remittance services. The move was reportedly sparked by regulatory compliance and terror financing concerns
Critics dismissed the ban as a knee-jerk reaction, noting that the money transfer operators were fully compliant with Central Bank rules and guidelines. As of the time of publishing this, Dahabshiil was still on the list of licensed money remittance providers on the Central Bank of Kenya website.
United Nations estimates put the value of remittances sent home from the Somali diaspora at around USD 1.6 billion every year.

Safaricom Publishes New Mpesa Tariffs: Was that a decrease? Or an increase?

tech

Yesterday, Safaricom announced that it will be decreasing it’s Mpesa tariffs. Good, we all thought. Equity’s pending entry into the mobile payments market is finally going to make things competitive. The new rates published by Safaricom today though give a somewhat conflicting picture.
There are reductions in the lower bands, coupled with increases in higher bands. The transfer fee for the voluminous KES 501 to KES 1000 band has been slashed by 44% to KES 15 from KES 27. The popular KES 1001 to KES 1500 band has also had its transfer fee reduced by 24.2% from KES 33 to KES 25. The largest tariff cut is in the minimal KES 10 to KES 49 band. Sending money in this band will now cost KES 1 down from KES 3, a 66.6% reduction.
Those sending money in higher bands though, will have to part with more starting tomorrow. Transfer fees for the KES 1501 to KES 2500 band for instance have been hiked by 21.2% from KES 33 to KES 40. Those sending amounts between KES 2501 to KES 3500  though will have to part with KES 55, up from KES 33, a 66.6% increase. The largest price hike has been reserved for the KES 3501 to KES 5000 band. Sending money in this band will now cost you KES 60, up from KES 33, an 81% increase.

Safaricom had earlier indicated that it would not be reacting to Equity’s entry into the mobile money transfer market with price cuts. The firm’s CEO Bob Collymore rather smugly pointed out that transfer fee price cuts by Airtel on it’s Airtel Money service had had little effect on its mammoth market share. Safaricom, however, seems to have since recognized Equity Bank for the formidable competitor bank is. The Communication Authority’s recent directive that Safaricom open up its agent network must have weighed on its pricing decision too.
The new rates go into effect tomorrow Thursday, 21st August 2014. Withdrawal commissions remained unchanged.

Transaction Range Minimum Transcation Range Maximum New Rate: Transfer to Other M-Pesa Users Old Rate: Transfer to Other M-Pesa Users Transfer to Unregistered Users Withdrawal from MPesa Agent
10 49 3 1 N/A N/A
50 100 5 3 N/A 10
101 500 27 11 66 27
501 1000 15 33 66 27
1001 1500 25 33 66 27
1501 2500 40 33 66 27
2501 3500 55 33 88 49
3501 5000 60 33 105 66
5001 7500 75 55 143 82
7501 10000 85 55 171 110
10001 15000 95 55 220 159
15001 20000 100 55 237 176
20001 25000 110 82 275 187
25001 30000 110 82 275 187
30001 35000 110 82 275 187
35001 40000 110 82 N/A 275
40001 45000 110 82 N/A 275
45001 50000 110 110 N/A 275
50001 70000 110 110 N/A 330

What Airtel’s win in petition to have Safaricom open up it’s Mpesa network means

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

Last month, Airtel Kenya won a petition against rival telco Safaricom. Airtel
had charged that Safaricom were enjoying undue advantage by enforcing an
exclusivity clause in its contracts with its MPesa agent network that barred MPesa agents from engaging in business with competing mobile network operators. Earlier in the month, the Communications Authority of Kenya wrote
both firms, directing Safariom to “immediately expunge” all restrictive clauses in the agreements between the mobile operator and it’s mobile money transfer agents.
The government agency set a deadline of 18th July “in any event” for Safaricom to effect the changes.
The Authority however stopped short of ruling on interoperability between Mpesa and rival mobile money transfer services, along with the cost of transactions with Authority Director-General Wangombe Kairuki being quoted as saying it was an issue that required input from both the Communications Authority and the Central Bank of Kenya
Could this landmark ruling by the Communications Authority be a harbinger for
the decline of Safaricom’s MPesa, and eventually the mobile telecommunications firm’s own decline?
As it is rival networks have suffered greatly from a lack of agents, with Safaricom’s near monopolization of mobile money agents. Could the opening of Safaricom’s pervasive nationwide agent network provide the much needed jolt that rival mobile money networks so badly need?
In all fairness though, rival services have also been held back by factors other than the lack of agent networks. There is little product differentiation between the various mobile money transfer offerings for instance. The lack of
an API for online merchants is a glaring inadequacy of current mobile payment services. Online commerce in Kenya still suffers from a lack of payment options. Those that do exist have no serviceable API through which integration
with merchant site software could be performed. Orange’s Orange Money, Yu Mobile’s Yu Cash, Airtel Money, Tangaza, MobiKash and the smattering of mobile money transfer services in existence today have all joined Safaricom in being
oblivious of an opportunity that is a potential game changer.
With the exception Airtel’s Airtel Money, rival offerings are not very compelling on the pricing count. Airtel made the bold move of eliminating transfer fees for its Airtel Money mobile money transfer service, mounting a
pricing challenge against MPesa. Orange Money’s pricing is at par with MPesa,
as is Yu Cash’s, presenting prospective customers little incentive to move away from MPesa.
It would seem competitors were not entirely sold on the necessity of a service such as MPesa at the onset.  That coupled with initial regulatory ambivalence made them hesitate, with firms choosing instead to compete in the voice and data segments. Little or no effort went into developing and promoting their mobile money transfer services. Consequently as MPesa took off, contending services either arrived late in the day or suffered from half hearted marketing efforts. Their mobile money offerings have since been marketed almost as an afterthought.
And what would have been an obvious move to tackle Safaricom, launching a joint service with attendant synergistic benefits was apparently never an option for competitors.
Ultimately the real beneficiary of the Authority’s decision might be Equity Bank. The ruling paves way for Equity’s much heralded mobile money transfer service, itself the subject of recent legal actions by Safaricom. The restrictions no doubt made it difficult for Equity to recruit agents. As it is most Equity banking agents also double up as MPesa agents. Equity’s entry into the mobile money arena would put this arrangement in jeopardy. The agents would have to choose between the banking giant’s nascent offering and Safaricom’s established MPesa service. No prizes for guessing which one they would likely choose.