Saturday, June 15, 2024

This is What You should Expect in M-PESA as the C.E.O Shares his plan to Take the Fintech to the next level

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Since April 2021, Sitoyo Lopokoiyit has served as the CEO of M-Pesa Africa, managing the operations of the mobile money platform in eight African territories, with Ethiopia being the most recent addition.

In an interview with Business Daily, he discussed his growth strategy for the upcoming stage and what it has been like to be the largest mobile money platform in Africa in terms of both subscriber base and transaction value.

It’s been just over two years since you joined this position. What do you think has been accomplished, and what have been your priorities?

The fact that we recognize ourselves as Africans and as a single M-Pesa, in my opinion, is what makes M-Pesa Africa so beautiful. There has been a major change from when we were seven M-Pesas to when we are now just one.

KICD-approved coding lessons now available through the M-PESA Mini-APP platform

What have been the misses in that journey?

Not many, but could we have done certain things faster? I think so. Could we have reacted differently in different countries? Yes. We’ve made mistakes making projects that didn’t work, that’s okay because the team learns and moves on.

For us mistakes are really part of this agile journey that we’re in where we mess up and move on after picking our lessons.

You’re operating in eight African markets. What informs the choice of the country that you move into and have you lined up plans to explore additional markets?

Right now we are in the markets where we have the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network; that has been the plan. All the eight markets are where Vodacom has established a GSM footprint.

Are we going to move to other countries beyond that? Potentially. But right now there’s so much to be done within our footprint, so there’s more focus on building and scaling up our present deployments.

Let’s talk about Ethiopia, your latest market. What trends are you seeing in terms of uptake and what lessons have you picked along the way?

We’ve taken the best of all the runnings of M-Pesa to Ethiopia and this includes the right talent, all the lessons picked in our years of operations, system upgrading and all so they have the best of it. That is the first thing.

The second is that it’s a big market of 100 million plus people. Third is that this is a long-term project. Even in Kenya, M-Pesa was not successful in one year while in Tanzania it took three years to scale so we need to give it patience.

The team that is there is working on understanding the use cases because like the way we have the ‘send money home’ as a use case here doesn’t mean that it’s the use case there.

So we’re trying to understand what the Ethiopians want, the challenges they face, and so on and so forth. Of course you can’t do the lending at first because you don’t have the data.

But from there we’ll be moving to tailoring the platform to provide the products and services that are needed but the strategy is the same. We are going to focus on consumers, businesses and on the developer community. Those three key pillars do not change, whichever market we go out to.

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What new innovations has M-Pesa lined up to compete with banks and other payment service providers who are increasingly enhancing their mobile money capabilities?

First of all, I wouldn’t say it’s competition. It is just that everybody is trying to digitise cash. And if you look at what the banks are doing, it’s all connected to M-Pesa, so we’re a platform that is enabling the banks do it.

So, it means they’re building an innovation on top of our plan, which is a great thing. We should never be worried about that, we should encourage it.

I don’t see it as competition, I see it from the perspective of M-Pesa expanding the base. The more people come on board, the better for us.

Here in Kenya, we’ve seen reports of business outlets increasingly ditching the use of Till Numbers to reduce their visibility in an attempt to dodge taxation. What impact has this had on the M-Pesa business?

It’s a perception that people have. That thing went out of control when the narrative spread and people got scared. But to be honest, nothing has changed from how we’ve been operating. In fact, if you look at the overall business for merchants, the uptake of Till Numbers is actually growing. So, from where I sit, the narrative is more perception than reality.

A majority of your customers complain about the high cost of transacting on the platform when they compare with what your rivals are offering. Is it possible to revise the charges and still make reasonable margins?

51 percent of transactions on M-Pesa are actually free and you’ve seen the rest gradually reduce. I mean, if you look at the trend, the transaction fees has been going down.

Samuel Musila
Samuel Musila
Passionate Software Developer and Tech content creator From Nairobi, Kenya

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