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Mobile Kenya Chip-and-PIN cards 'risk killing' mobile money in Kenya

Chip-and-PIN cards 'risk killing' mobile money in Kenya

Chip-and-PIN cards risk killing mobile money in Kenya.

A shift to a more secure chip-and-PIN bank card system in Kenya could kill off mobile money services such as M-Pesa in the country, claims a local expert.

On March 31 all Kenyan banks are required to migrate to the more secure Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) inter-operation system, as cards that use magnetic stripes are deemed to be vulnerable to crimes such as skimming by fraudsters.

But the change to EMV may also spur on a shift in local customers turning away from telecom firms to banks, according to Kimson Kimathi, who is a blogger and information security evangelist.

By July last year, Kenya only had just over 9 million debit cards, according to the country’s central bank. This is a figure that pales in comparison to the over 25 million mobile money users in the country, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

Nevertheless, Kimathi maintains that because the EMV system allows for third party applications that could authenticate banking transactions in the same way that mobile money does, the latter system risks becoming redundant.

“I am seeing a scenario whereby M-Pesa agents will become irrelevant because if such apps are developed then the bank will retake their position and consumers with EMV cards become agents,” Kimathi told ITWeb Africa.

“EMV will bring in the confidence again by more secure payment channels,” he said.

However, banks face an uphill battle in winning over consumers, as mobile money usage growth surges in Kenya, as revealed by the CCK’s sector statistics report for the first quarter of the financial year 2013/14.

“Mobile money transfer service continued to record growth due to its popularity and convenience in usage. During the quarter under review, the number of subscriptions rose marginally by 1.1% to 25.1 million up from 24.8 million subscriptions recorded during the previous period,” said the CCK in the report.

“The number of agents on the other hand grew by 3.7% to reach 91,750 up from 88,466 posted during the previous quarter,” added the CCK.