April 6, 2018 / 9:34 AM / 14 days ago

Kenya mobile phone firms to offer cross-network cash transfers

NAIROBI, April 6 (Reuters) - Kenya’s three top telecom companies will offer cross-network money transfers by mobile phone, they said on Friday, in a move expected to boost competition in a lucrative market dominated by Safaricom.

Subscribers of Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom will be able to transfer and receive cash from one mobile network to another, the companies said in a joint statement published in the Business Daily newspaper.

Safaricom and Airtel will institute the new system from April 10 while Telkom will join later, the companies said.

The East African nation’s mobile market is among the most advanced and widely used in Africa. It attracted 537 million financial transactions valued at 1.65 trillion Kenyan shillings ($16.35 billion) between July and September 2017, according to Kenya’s Communications Authority.

Safaricom holds a dominant position in the telecoms market, accounting for 90 percent of revenue in both voice calls and text messages. It has 72 percent of Kenya’s total mobile phone subscribers.

It also dominates the mobile money business, with its pioneering M-Pesa platform controlling about 80 percent of the 28 million subscriptions in the market.

Airtel Money has a 5.8 percent market share. Telkom relaunched its mobile financial services platform in March.

The cross-network transfers will help level the market, Information, Communication and Technology Minister Joe Mucheru said last month.

The telecommunications regulator in January ditched plans to break Safaricom into separate telecoms and financial services businesses.

$1 = 100.9000 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Omar Mohammed; editing by Maggie Fick and Jason Neely

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