M-Pesa relaunches in SA: refined strategy, massive roll-out

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Vodacom’s well-known mobile money transfer service M-Pesa is having a second go at South Africa’s mobile market. The telecom giant announced that, after two years of assessment, it’s relaunching the mobile payment service which is set to transform the way South Africans bank.

The Kenyan mobile service was first launched by Safaricom in 2007, where it has proved to be exceptionally popular, with over 70% of the adult population relying on the service. M-Pesa was then introduced in 2010 to South Africans via Vodacom with little success.

In theory, M-Pesa’s success in South Africa should have been a given that they are increasingly active on their mobile phones, and boasting one of the highest mobile penetration rates on the continent. Alas, the service initially saw a weaker than expected uptake of 1-million users and eventually called bust.

Second time lucky?

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub explains that M-pesa has the potential to transform how South Africans manage money and that Vodacom has learned from the experience in the past. “We’re looking forward to the day that South Africa is held up as yet another example of where M-pesa has changed the face of banking, unlocking the power of mobile technology to make people’s lives easier.”

According to Joosub, the implementation will focus on four crucial sectors: distribution, registration, functionality and loyalty. This promotes the product at more than 30 000 of its retailers, and through 8 000 agents in both formal and informal settlements.

Registration will also be made easier. Without having to physically present an ID at the closest retailer, people can now signup using their phones. Joosub explains that Vodacom has learned from its successes and mistakes in the past:

“After tackling distribution, the second thing that the m-pesa team did was to address the issue of ease of registration. In Kenya and Tanzania, any m-pesa agent can register a customer – all it takes is a mobile phone and an ID document. For the original launch of m-pesa in South Africa, a potential customer had to present their ID in person at a limited number of outlets.”

Where Vodacom partnered with Nedbank in 2010, the telecom giant made a deal with both Bidvest Bank and Visa this time round. This means that customers get a chip-and-Pin Visa card and a voucher system to upload cash. The M-Pesa Visa card also gives customers access to 27 000 ATMs and 240 000 merchants.

To better the functionality, customers can use the voucher system to upload M-Pesa similar to how they would airtime. “On top of this, traditional services like person to person transfers have been optimised. Additional functionality is planned for the near future. In short, this is true mobile banking that has something to offer for all income groups across South Africa,” says Joosub.

Lastly, to drive loyalty, usage will now be directly linked to rewards in the form of airtime and other offers, giving a clear incentive to the more than 30-million customers currently using Vodacom’s mobile services in South Africa to begin using M-pesa.

Joosub added:

“Each country has its own unique needs and challenges, and it has been a learning process getting to understand exactly what will and what won’t work in South Africa. We’ve taken the experience and knowledge gained from the past four years and have used this as the basis for a comprehensive redesign of m-pesa for the South African market.”

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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