To allow users to make payments in a country where many people don’t have access to credit cards, Google Play has begun accepting payments through mobile phones in Kenya. The games and apps platform now works with Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Reuters reported.
M-Pesa has amassed almost 30 million users in Kenya, which has a population of 45 million people; it’s a country where Google’s Android platform is popular. In fact, most of the 13 million smartphones on Safaricom’s network there run on Android.
“This is very important to the developer ecosystem in markets where credit card penetration is low,” said Mahir Sain, head of Africa Android Partnerships at Google.
Safaricom’s M-Pesa began in 2007 as a way for people to transfer money. Since then, it has evolved to allow users to pay merchants for goods and services. Regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya, the platform gives users access to bank services through partnerships with local banks, even if they don’t have a bank account.
Safaricom has been looking to expand M-Pesa for some time, as reported in 2017, but its hands have been tied by the wishes of its parent company, Vodafone. The company is much larger than its two main competitors in the local mobile market, with 29.4 million users — 71.9 percent of Kenya’s total market. It is 35 percent-owned by South African group Vodacom and 5 percent-owned by Vodacom’s major shareholder Vodafone.
In January, Kenya’s telecom regulator reportedly backed off a plan that would have seen the firm’s financial services and telecommunications functions divided off from each other. The move was considered due to Safaricom’s massive size.
It also came about following the recommendation of a report on competition in the sector that leaked last year after it had been circulated for commentary. The report explicitly recommended that the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) break up Safaricom, the biggest firm in Kenya by market value.