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Kenya's Central Bank gives mobile money interoperability thumbs up

Kenya's Central Bank gives mobile money interoperability thumbs up

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has welcomed the implementation of interoperability of mobile phone financial services in the country beginning Tuesday this week.

Mobile money interoperability allows customers to transfer funds across networks in real time, at lower cost and in a secure environment.

In January this year Safaricom's M-Pesa and Airtel Money undertook a pilot of mobile money interoperability in preparation for a nationwide launch of the cross-network service, initially planned for last month.

At the time the ICT Ministry said Telkom Kenya would be expected to take part in the tests as soon as it launches its mobile money service T-Kash which happened in early March.

Joe Mucheru, ICT Cabinet Secretary in Kenya's Government said making it easier to send money between different networks will drive down the costs for mobile money service users.

"We expect that as a result of the mobile money interoperability, other than the access and efficiency, there is actually then going to be more competition which should maybe lower the price of services and that will be better for everybody."

The Central Bank has identified key factors that it says need to be considered before endorsing mobile money interoperability, including cost.

The Bank believes it is important that the cost of transferring money out of the network is not higher than what will be charged for transferring within the network.

The CBK has also barred the introduction of interchange fees.

Another important factor is security in the CBK's view which requires mobile money operators to ensure that interfaces between them are as secure as possible.

The Bank says another factor it considered is efficiency which requires that transactions be reflected in customers' mobile wallets without undue delay.

"Interoperability is another significant milestone for Kenya's mobile money. It will play an important role in enhancing the usage of mobile money services, thereby deepening financial access. CBK has licensed three Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) under the National Payment System (NPS) Act: Safaricom Plc, Airtel Networks Kenya Limited, and Telkom Kenya Limited. Under NPS regulations, the MNOs are required to use payment systems capable of being interoperable with other payment systems," added the CBK in its statement.

The Bank also notes that mobile money subscriber accounts grew to 37.8 million in January 2018, while mobile money transactions in the same period were valued at Ksh.323.0 billion with 1.4 billion transactions.

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