M-Pesa without Safaricom?

Recently, Safaricom removed unlimited internet bundles forcing some of us to move to find alternatives. As far as alternatives for internet goes, those are there. And I have since moved my internet bill to another carrier.

As I was moving, I kept thinking to myself why I was on Safaricom in the first place? Why are so many people on Safaricom? Despite the fact that they are not the most affordable network, nor are they the best quality network, they still have staggering numbers of subscribers. Why?

Well, the only reason at the moment why I still have a Safaricom line is M-Pesa. There is still no service out there to match it in terms of availability or agents. I mean, there are M-Pesa agents everywhere (in Kenya)! No other mobile money service has as many outlets. It really is quite a good ‘sticky’ product for the mobile phone carrier. It is making me and many other people keep their Safaricom lines which they can and will occasionally use to call, text and surf, despite the higher charges incurred on all those services with respect to competitors charges. Even the M-Pesa service itself is not cheap. But it is widely available.

So, is it possible to have M-Pesa without Safaricom? I have thought about this quite a bit and I think there can be a solution for half the problem. As for the other half, maybe you can help by commenting. But before I move on, let me elaborate on the problem a bit more.

M-Pesa without Safaricom would require an efficient method of receiving money from other M-Pesa users, and a way to send money directly to other people via M-Pesa in a manner that allows them to withdraw the money from M-Pesa agents.

Now, the first half of the problem, receiving money via M-Pesa, I believe is simple enough to solve. All I think is required is a 3rd Party Payment Gateway. And for purposes of this discussion, I shall use the example of ‘PesaPal.

PesaPal is a great service. It works marvelously well for online merchants. It is efficient, convenient and secure. How much greater would it be if it could be made to work in a manner where the merchant could receive payment without needing a website?

At the moment, upon registering as a merchant, PesaPal will give you a merchant key and merchant secret, which are used in the merchant’s site to identify the merchant when customers are making payment. This works quite well for those purposes. No doubt about that. But would it not be nice is a merchant could have a memorable unique identifier that a user using PesaPal could input when making a transaction for the money to be sent directly to the merchant?

For example, when using M-Pesa, lets assume that a merchant has the unique identifier ‘ajagwe’ – all a user would have to do to send Ksh 1,000 to ‘ajagwe’ is

  1. Go to M-PESA on your phone
  2. Select Pay Bill option
  3. Enter Business no. 220220
  4. *Enter Account Number ajagwe
  5. Enter the Amount Ksh. 1000
  6. Enter your M-PESA PIN and Send

* – This is the modified step which is currently left blank

After doing so, the user should get a message from M-Pesa confirming the transaction between Safaricom and PesaPal, and a second message confirming the transaction between PesaPal and ‘ajagwe’.

I have looked at other mobile payment options offered by PesaPal and the same model would work for most of them. They would though, have to move to the Make Payments service for Airtel Money as opposed to the current Send Money with nickname.

This would make it easy for merchants to receive money from various mobile payments options and open up the service to merchants who just want an efficient way of receiving money, and do not necessarily want to have to set up a website in order to do so.

That would solve the problem of receiving money. I am still stuck on the second half of the problem, which is to allow the merchant to send money from their PesaPal accounts a user. Once I get any breakthroughs, I will post them here but please feel free to contribute by commenting below.

I believe that PesaPal are either thinking about this, have thought about it, or are now thinking about it. There could be other factors I may not have considered that might be rendering this solution impractical or impossible. As someone who would love to use such a service, I invite them too to comment and maybe tell us if we are ever going to see something like this. It would be nice to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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6 comments

  1. Intersting… In a sense pesapal would become a banking hub with the ability to send and receive from and to multiple sources.

    Now the other half??? Thinking is required

  2. Good point. Had not thought about banks. Many banks have mobile payment integration. Mainly with MPesa and Airtel Money. Do any of them allow for sending money from the bank account to the mpesa account of a person who is not the account holder? In a way such as to skip sending money bank to account holders mpesa first?

  3. At this point, I think PesaPal should work as a bank. They could make a strong partnership with a bank, or microfinance institution that will allow PesaPal to M-Pesa withdrawal. A user would open a PesaPal ‘bank’ account by visiting the financial partner and the rest of the transactions will be via USSD.

  4. I think Zuku uses the Mpesa-PayPal. My once paid my tv bill via Mpesa and received notifications from both Paypal and Zuku just in the manner you have described above.

  5. @Jayx I think you may have missed the point just a bit. Most banks and microfinances with the M-Pesa service allow for money to move from the account to the Safaricom phone of the account holder. I am hoping for a solution that excludes the account holder from having to have a Safaricom phone, (hence the Mpesa WITHOUT Safaricom) but still allows tye account holder to move money from their account to another safaricom phone not associated with the account via MPesa, thus allowing a user to pay someone via MPesa without actually needing a safaricom phone at any point of the transaction. Any thoughts on how that might work?

    Also, the USSD idea is not bad. Although, web app I believe would be the way to go seeing as if you are on PesaPal, web is sort of a must seeing as it is an online payment gateway.

  6. @kitui You do realise that only works on the Zuku website and there is no way of paying zuku via pesapal if you are not on the zuku site.

    It works well for the model of business who just want to receive money via mobile payments systems and have a website or can build one. What about a business that wants to he able to receive money from all the supported mobile payment options but do not necessarily want to build a website that has to have pesapal integrated and still want the other cool features that come with being a pesapal merchant like statements and accountability?

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