March 16, 2020 / 12:17 PM / in 12 days

UPDATE 2-Kenya's Safaricom waives some M-Pesa transfer fees amid virus outbreak

(Updates with central bank’s statement)

NAIROBI, March 16 (Reuters) - Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator Safaricom said on Monday it will waive transaction costs on mobile money transfers under 1,000 shillings ($10) after the government said cashless payments can curb the spread of the coronavirus.

President Uhuru Kenyatta encouraged people to use the service because it would cut down on the handling of cash and the risk of the virus being transmitted from person to person. Kenya has three cases of the virus so far.

Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile money platform has more than 20 million active users in a population of 47 million.

The Central Bank of Kenya has also approved an increase of the daily transaction limit to 300,000 shillings per person from the current 140,000 shillings, Safaricom said in a statement.

Other financial payments services companies and commercial banks will also remove charges for customers who move money between their mobile wallets and bank accounts, the central bank said, adding that the measures would remain in place until June 30.

M-Pesa users will be able to hold more money in their wallets under the new changes, the central bank said, adding that the total monthly limit for transactions has also been removed.

The various limits are designed to stem cases of money laundering and the central bank said it will monitor the implementation of the emergency measures to ensure they comply with anti-money laundering guidelines. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Louise Heavens)

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