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ITWeb Africa

Monday, Jan 27th

Safaricom goes toe-to-toe with banks

Safaricom goes toe-to-toe with banks

Safaricom plans to roll out a savings plan on its mobile money service, M-Pesa that will enable its customers to save money and earn an annual interest.

The platform, named Mali (which is Swahili for wealth), is still in testing phase and the company has not yet confirmed a date for official launch.

Once rolled out, customers must be registered for three months or more to access the service and will be able to earn 10% interest per annum, which will accrue daily.

The savings limit has been set between KES100 (US$1) and KES70,000 (US$700), there is also a 15% withholding tax charged on the investment income and users will have to wait a year before being able to withdraw any monies.

Customers can register for the service by dialing a USSD code *230#or by using a pay bill number.

Mali is considered competition for banks, especially after President Kenyatta lifted the interest caps for banks last month thus enabling financial institutions to set interest rates for their borrowers.

The company seems to be taking advantage of this development with official data showing that in September savings dropped to 4.58% from 6.33% during the same period last year.

At the time Kenya's Parliament capped the lending rates by removing a clause that compelled banks to pay their depositors a minimum 70% of the base lending rate.

Safaricom issued a statement claiming it would be premature to comment on the product since it is still in its testing stages.

"Mali is one such innovation that is currently in the testing phase and still subject to ingoing engagement with the relevant regulators for approval. It is therefore premature to comment on plans around the service and whether or when it will be available to all our customers," reads an excerpt from the statement.

Currently, Safaricom has about 20 million M-Pesa users.

In January 2019, the company launched Fuliza, a borrowing plan that allows M-Pesa customers to complete paying for products or services even when having less money in their accounts. In nine months, Fuliza lent KES140-billion (approximately US$1.4-billion).

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