Kenya’s major telecoms operator, Safaricom, has unveiled a new service that will allow customers to pay for goods and services using their internet data balance. This is yet another push for widening its customer base in the East African nation. This feature applies to both postpaid and prepaid customers with at least 5GB of data at the time. For prepaid subscribers, this applies to No Expiry data bundles.
Through the service called “Lipa na Data”, subscribers can pay for items at shops using either Paybill or till numbers. The latter can be accessed by dialing the shortcode *544*34#.
Upon dialing the shortcode for Lipa na Data, those deemed ineligible for this service will see an error message on their device screen. Those who qualify will be presented with a menu of four options which are: Buy Goods, Pay Bill, Bundle Calculator, and View Bundle Balance.
The Bundle Calculator tool presents the bill in Kenyan Shillings alongside its data bundle equivalent. For context, a bill worth Sh500 will cost the user around 7.7GB while a charge of Sh2,000 is equal to 30GB. At this point, the user can either accept or decline the payment request. The View Bundle Balance will allow users to tell whether they have a sufficient balance for the transaction.
As mentioned, Lipa na Data joins a handful of marketing strategies intended to sustain the dominance of Safaricom and its mobile money service, M-Pesa. Another innovative payment method from the telecom operator is the Fuliza service which allows qualified users with insufficient funds to pay for goods and services through an overdraft. Similarly, the Lipa na Bonga offer enables consumers to offset cash bills using loyalty points.
Safaricom still leads despite profit drop,
Safaricom’s recent wave of customer-facing services can be linked to the fact that the company’s net profit of Sh52.48 billion for the year ended March 2023, represented a decline of 22.7% when compared to the Sh67.49 billion it generated the prior year. This trend is mainly due to the hefty operating expenses it incurred in Ethiopia, another market the telecom company is grappling with.
To improve its situation in Ethiopia, Safaricom recently appointed Wim Vanhelleputte as the CEO of its operations. Vanhelleputte, previously of the MTN Group, relieved Anwar Soussa who helped Safaricom reel in over 4 million subscribers and gain an operating license for M-Pesa during his two-year tenure.
Aside from providing its customer base with multiple payment solutions, Safaricom has also prioritized the improvement of its grid coverage by bringing the much-anticipated 5G network and its fast connectivity to Kenya. As of April this year, Safaricom’s 5G network was available in 21 of Kenya’s 47 counties.
Safaricom remains a dominant force in Kenya, according to the Communication Authority’s recent data on prepaid subscribers. Based on the report, Safaricom maintains a whipping 66% of registered users, followed by Airtel Kenya with 27%, and Telkom Kenya with 4.2%. Similarly, M-Pesa, the biggest mobile money service in Kenya, enjoys 96.5% of the country’s mobile money share. Rivals Airtel Money and T-Kash place second (3.4%) and third (0.1%) on the list respectively.
Airtel recently made a significant effort to challenge Safaricom’s overwhelming advantage in the Kenyan market by announcing July for the launch of its 5G network. 5G is considered a game-changer in the internet scene, mainly because it brings high-speed connectivity, lower latency, and other perks to devices. Given the success of M-Pesa and its associated services, it’ll be difficult to offset Safaricom as the number one telecom operator. After all, it brought 5G to Kenya a bit earlier than Airtel.
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