Airtel subscribers will this week start paying for goods and services through Safaricom’s Lipa na M-Pesa, enabling a seamless transfer of money through merchants attached to different operators.
Barring last-minute hitches, Safaricom will Friday launch the interoperability — the ability of different IT systems to communicate and exchange data —of the two rival networks for merchant payments.
The new system will remove the hurdle where Airtel subscribers, for example, cannot pay for goods and services through Safaricom’s till and pay-bill numbers.
Regulators led by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have been fronting for a seamless transfer to curb the dominance of Safaricom’s mobile money service and Lipa na M-Pesa, which handled payments worth Sh970.2 billion in the year to January.
“Lipa na M-Pesa will (have) interoperability between operators. It will benefit both consumers and operators,” said a top executive at Safaricom who did not want to be identified before the formal launch.
Airtel’s version of merchant payments services is dubbed Lipa na Airtel Money, but it is used much less compared to Safaricom’s, a market position that is in line with its stake in the mobile money transfer service.
Business owners are charged a maximum of 0.5 percent or not more than Sh200 per transaction for money collected on the till, says Safaricom on its websites.
There are no customer charges for payments made using Lipa na M-Pesa Buy Goods segment except for settlements made at fuel stations.