The competition in the Kenyan mobile payments ecosystem is heating up. Visa is collaborating with various Kenyan banks to bring the competition to M-Pesa and Bitpesa. An interesting development, albeit the credit card issuer may have bitten off a bit more than it can chew.
Visa Wants To Compete With M-Pesa
Similar to a lot of other financial players in the market, Visa wants a bigger slice of the pie in the mobile space. By targeting Kenya specifically, the company is bringing significant competition to M-Pesa and Bitpesa. So far, the market has been dominated by M-Pesa for quite some time, and the system seems to work quite well.
mVisa, as this new offering is called, will give customers access to funds in their bank account, which can be used to pay merchants and people. This is made possible by collaborating with various local banks, including NIC Bank, Family Bank, and KCB. However, this will only be useful to people who have access to a bank account, which are not necessarily the people targeted by M-Pesa.
At the same time, this new offering provides consumers with an alternative option to relying on Safaricom. While they are the largest mobile operator in the country, mVisa will let anyone access and use funds regardless of which provider they are on. Moreover, this function will work between users of these different banks, which may have some appeal to some people.
In-store payments can be completed by scanning QR codes with a smartphone. Owners of a feature phone can enter the merchant’s phone number to complete the transfer. It is good to see mVisa support both feature phones and smartphones, as both are very common in Kenya and other African countries.
So far, mVisa launched in India last year, where it is being used by roughly 30,000 merchants. The company will expand their presence in Africa over the coming years, targeting regions such as Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria by the end of 2016. For now, it remains to be seen how much competition this will bring to M-Pesa and Bitpesa in Kenya, as both services seem to target very different user groups.
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