, 17 March, 2020 / 4:16 AM
With two more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the East African nation of Kenya, bringing to three the number of patients with the deadly virus and the country’s President announcing a raft of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, a popular mobile money provider in the country has responded by announcing a revision of transaction costs and daily transaction limits to encourage cashless transactions.
Addressing a television news conference Sunday, March 15, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced stringent measures to help contain the deadly coronavirus disease and called on public and private agencies that provide critical services in the country to make hard decisions to save Kenyans during the temporary lockdown.
President Kenyatta advised Kenyans to avoid the use of cash money when transacting, an advisory that prompted the Monday, March 16 meeting between representatives of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and those of Payment Service Providers’ (PSPs) including Kenya’s largest telecommunications provider, Safaricom, the company that operates M-pesa – the most popular mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service in Kenya.
“Safaricom PLC would like to thank the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Dr. Patrick Njoroge for hosting a meeting with Safaricom and other industry players to discuss the evolving situation around the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic,” reads a statement from Safaricom seen by ACI Africa.
In the statement, Safaricom CEO, Michael Joseph, says, “The meeting follows the directive by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta to explore ways of deepening mobile money usage to reduce the risk of spreading the virus through the physical handling of cash. The President also directed that we consider reducing the cost of using mobile money during this period.”
Mr. Joseph disclosed some of the Monday meeting’s resolutions including a waiver of charges on mobile money transactions up to KES.1,000.00 (USD10.00), an increase of the daily transaction limit and wallet limit among other adjustments that seem to compromise the Payment Service Providers’ (PSPs) focus on profits.
“It was agreed that all person-to-person transactions below Ksh.1,000 shall be free. This means that from tomorrow morning, M-PESA users will be able to send any amount below Ksh.1,000 for free over the next 90 (ninety) days,” the Monday, March 16 statement indicates.
CBK has also approved the increase of daily M-PESA transaction limits from the current KES.70,000.00 (USD700.00) to KES.150,000.00 (USD1,500.00) in a move that has been said to support small and micro business enterprises (SMEs).
“Kenyans will also be able to transact up to KES.300,000.00 (USD3,000.00) up from the current daily limit of KES.140,000.00 (USD1,400.00), and hold up to Sh.300,000 in their M-PESA wallets,” the Safaricom CEO stated.
Safaricom is also working with the Government by providing a Call Center and integrating a toll-free line 719, which has been set up by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus to support Kenyans in understanding how to prevent and manage suspected cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus.
According to the statement, Safaricom has also interconnected other networks to ensure that their subscribers can access the Call Centre. It noted that all calls to 719 are free.
Mr. Joseph stated the firm’s commitment to fighting against the spread of COVID-19 saying, “We remain committed to working with all stakeholders to help our nation through this crisis.”
Kenya announced the first case of coronavirus in the country Thursday, March 12 involving a 27-year-old female Kenyan citizen who returned to the country from the United States of America via London on March 5.
Announcing the two other cases of COVID-19 in Kenya Sunday, March 15, President Kenyatta urged people to avoid shopping places, minimize congestion in public transport and also limit visitors to hospitals as part of the stringent measures in addition to the closure of all schools and institutions of higher learning.
Another favorable revision announced by CBK following the Monday, March 16 meeting with PSPs in view of facilitating “increased use of mobile money transactions instead of cash” is the elimination of the monthly total limit for mobile money transactions.
CBK also announced that “the current tariff for mobile money transactions for KES.70,000.00 will apply for transactions up to KES.150,000.00.
“PSPs and commercial banks will eliminate charges for transfers between mobile money wallets and bank accounts,” CBK announced in a statement seen by ACI Africa.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa