Vodafone relaxes M-Pesa rules to grow SA users [Business Daily (Kenya)]
(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) South Africa's telecommunications firm Vodafone has eased registration requirements for M-Pesa, in yet another attempt at reviving the mobile money service that has struggled since its introduction in the country four years ago.
Former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph, who was instrumental in popularising the mobile phone-based payments service in Kenya, is involved in the latest re-launch of M-Pesa in South Africa.
M-Pesa has only gained 1.2 million South African subscribers since its 2010 launch.
It has now eased the signing-up process allowing new subscribers to register through their cell phones without having to visit an agent.
South Africa's Vodafone, which is majority-owned by UK-based Vodafone, the owner of the M-Pesa concept, has also partnered with Visa to supply its M-Pesa customers with debit cards that can be used to withdraw money where agents are not present.
Mr Joseph, the Vodafone director for mobile money, has previously said these changes will help adapt M-Pesa with the "First World" market of South Africa where credit card use and inadequate agency network have worked against it.
"We have worked hard to learn from our experience with the service so far, and have come back with something that we think is truly compelling," Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub said in a statement.
"Customers can now self-register using their mobile phone. Previously, customers had to take their phone and ID to a physical outlet, making it less convenient to sign up."
Safaricom introduced M-Pesa in Kenya in March 2007 to immediate success with the company's latest financial statements indicating it earned Sh26.5 billion in revenue from the service last year.
The mobile firm currently has about 19.3 million registered users, a far cry from South Africa's 1.2 million.
Mr Joseph previously told Business Daily that the service failed take off in South Africa partly because many people in the country prefer using debit and credit cards to transact.
Also, Vodafone started off with a distribution network of about 1,000 outlets which, compared to Safaricom's 81,025 agents, greatly limited the scope of their business.
"We plan to bring more agents on board through mostly though spaza shops (informal kiosks, pharmacies and more supermarkets in a fashion similar to Kenya," Mr Joseph told Business Daily during the planning stage late last year.
It has already partnered with a total of 8,000 outlets by the time of the re-launch, with plans to increase this number to 30,000 by the end of the year.
"It is not good enough to have an agent at the nearest big town or at a handful of big retail outlets,' said Mr Joosub.
"Kenya and Tanzania taught us that if you need to take a taxi to use the service, it will fail.''
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