Safaricom waives M-Pesa fees

Tuesday March 24 2020
M-Pesa

An attendant makes an M-Pesa transaction for a customer: Safaricom has waived fees amid a raging coronavirus pandemic across the globe. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PAUL WAFULA

Safaricom has become the first player in the mobile money business to cut prices following a request from President Uhuru Kenyatta.

On Sunday, Mr Kenyatta asked banks and mobile money providers to consider reducing the cost of transactions to allow customers use cashless modes of payment as part of measures to stop transmission of Covid-19, widely known as new coronavirus.

Safaricom said on Monday that it would like to thank Central Bank Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge for hosting a meeting with the telecommunications industry players to discuss the evolving situation around the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The meeting follows the directive by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta to explore ways of deepening mobile money usage to reduce the risk of spreading the virus through the physical handling of cash,” the firm’s chief executive Michael Joseph said in a statement.

“The President also directed that we consider reducing the cost of using mobile money during this period,” he added.

In the meeting, it was agreed that all person-to-person transactions below Sh1,000 shall be free.

This means that from tomorrow morning (Tuesday 17), M-Pesa users will be able to send any amounts below Sh1,000 for free over the next 90 days.

This comes as countries such as China moved to disinfect banknotes with ultraviolet light, even though the World Health Organisation said that it still doesn't know how long the virus survives on objects such as money.

South Korea recently said it was taking all banknotes out of circulation and destroying some of them in order to curb spread of the virus.

The spotlight now shifts to banks and other telecommunications firms to follow suit.

Small and micro business enterprises (SMEs) using M-Pesa have also been allowed a higher limit of Sh150,000 daily transactions, up from the current Sh70,000.

Kenyans will also be able to transact up to Sh300,000, up from the current limit of Sh140,000, and hold up to Sh300,000 in their M-Pesa wallets.

Safaricom said it was also working with the government by providing a call centre and integrating a toll-free line (719) which has been set up by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus to support Kenyans in understanding how to prevent and manage suspected cases.

“We have also interconnected other networks to ensure that their subscribers can access the call centre. All calls to 719 are free. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders to help our nation through this crisis,” the firm said.