Coronavirus

Kenya Prioritizes M-Pesa Digital Money During Coronavirus Scare

Kenya Prioritizes M-Pesa Digital Money During Coronavirus Scare

Safaricom, the largest telecom company in Kenya, said that it was going to waive fees for M-Pesa, the country’s largest digital money service, to help with the spread of the coronavirus in the country, according to a report by TechCrunch.

The company said all transactions that are under 1,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $10) will be free, beginning March 17, and that will continue for 90 days. The new action came after Safaricom had a meeting with Kenya’s Central Bank, and also after President Uhuru Kenyatta said the country needed “to explore ways of deepening mobile-money usage to reduce risk of spreading the virus through physical handling of cash.”

Also, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will be able to increase their daily transaction limits using M-Pesa from 70,000 to 150,000 shillings, which equals about $700 to $1,500.

There are about 20.5 million customers of M-Pesa, which makes up about 25 percent of Safaricom’s yearly revenue. Last year, that was about $2.2 billion.

Safaricom has the highest smartphone money usage rates on the African continent, and it has the most market share in Kenya, something it's had for almost a decade.

Right now (March 16), there are only three cases of coronavirus in the country, but that doesn’t mean leadership isn't taking extreme measures.

The president canceled a couple of meetings with foreigners, and the University of Nairobi (UoN) stopped classes.

“The university has fully complied with the presidential directive to suspend learning at all our campuses with immediate effect,” UoN Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Kiama said, according to local media. “The Senate is scheduled to consider closure modalities in order to comply with this directive by Friday, March 20, 2020, at the latest.

“Every member of the University of Nairobi community is advised to follow the guidelines as regularly issued by the government,” he added.

Many companies are asking employees to telecommute.

“I implore all the members of the UoN community to as far as possible avoid high-risk areas and behavior in order to protect each other from contracting COVID-19,” Kiama said.

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