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Kenya's Safaricom's overdraft service exceeds expectations - CEO


Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator, Safaricom, notched up one million users for its new overdraft feature on the M-Pesa platform in just eight days.

The project was started 11 years ago as a service by Kenya’s biggest telecom’s operator, to allow Kenyans without access to the banking network to transfer money via mobile phones.

M-Pesa now offers loans and savings in conjunction with local banks, as well as merchant payments services.

Safaricom, part-owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone, launched the new overdraft feature called Fuliza on January 7 this year.

“Turned out we got a million by day eight, and by day eight we had lent about 10 million dollars. Now we are probably at about 15 million dollars that’s been loaned out. So really exciting product, quite creative, but if you look at it in the scale of things, it’s just like an evolution of what we’ve done before,but clearly it meets a very latent demand,” CEO Bob Collymore told Reuters in an interview.

Collymore said he would welcome any potential take-over of the smallest operator, Telkom Kenya, by No.2 operator Bharti Airtel, following recent media reports of such a deal.

As the market leader with 65 percent of mobile phone users, or 30 million subscribers, Safaricom has long been dogged by regulatory proposals to clip its wings to boost competition.

“Our focus is on building an e-commerce marketplace, it’s on building solutions for the agriculture sector, for the transport sector, it’s about the IoT internet of things, it’s about tracking of vehicles, it’s about tracking of coolers for soda and for beer and stuff like that, so that’s where we’re focused, not on the competition,” said Collymore.

M-Pesa has around 20 million active users in Kenya and it has become the principal driver of profit growth for the dominant telecoms provider in East Africa, as revenue from traditional voice and text services has flattened off.

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