Vodacom relaunches M-Pesa in SA

Vodacom has announced a revamped M-Pesa service in South Africa, boasting 8,000 agents at both informal outlets and at major retail partners.

This, the operator said, is approximately ten times the number that M-Pesa originally launched with in 2010 in SA, and the intention is to grow, particularly in the informal sector, to around 30,000 points of presence by the end of the year.

The group announced a partnership with Bidvest Bank and Visa for the ramped up service.

Vodacom introduced M-Pesa to South Africa in 2010 and while the initial take up was strong with more than one million people signing up, it hasn’t so far enjoyed the overwhelming uptake seen in markets like Kenya and Tanzania.

Vodacom said that its current M-Pesa offering has ‘over a million’ customers.

In order to have an M-Pesa wallet, a Vodacom SIM card is needed. The operator said that customers can send that money to people on any network, while the group has also partnered with the four major banks.

First launched in Kenya in 2007, M-Pesa is now used by more than 18 million people across 13 countries to perform banking and money transfer services via mobile phone.

Over the past two years Vodacom said it has assembled a new M-Pesa team, bringing in external expertise in banking and mobile payments.

Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub said: “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.”

M-Pesa
M-Pesa in SA

According to Vodacom, more than half of the customer base of Vodacom Tanzania is registered for M-Pesa, and this group accounts for more than US$1 billion in activity per month.

In Kenya, over 70% of the adult population uses M-Pesa. In order to achieve the same level of participation in South Africa, the first thing that the team focused on is distribution.

With the revised M-Pesa service in SA, customers can self-register via mobile phone simply by entering their name and ID number.

If a customer would like to enhance the functionality and transaction limits of their M-Pesa account, then all they need to do is take their ID and register in person at one of the roughly 1,000 FICA sites set up countrywide.

These include Vodacom shops, spaza shops and specialized FICA hubs at key points like cash ‘n carry outlets.

Joosub said: “While distribution and registration are key enabling factors, the heart of the revised M-Pesa is the functionality.”

“We’re excited to be working with two key new partners, Bidvest Bank and Visa, whose skills and expertise have allowed us to add entirely new functionality to M-Pesa that addresses the specific needs of the South African market.”

The revised M-Pesa service introduces a number of new elements including a chip and pin protected Visa card, and a voucher system to upload cash.

The new M-Pesa Visa card gives access to approximately 27,000 ATMs and over 240,000 merchant outlets in South Africa.

Another key innovation is the introduction of a voucher system which allows people to convert cash to M-Pesa at all Vodacom shops, selected spaza shops, and at selected retailers.

The process is similar to buying airtime and makes topping up the M-Pesa wallet quick and convenient, Vodacom said.

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.

The initial rewards for using this product include a doubling of airtime when purchasing airtime via M-Pesa, and free airtime for activating the M-Pesa Visa card.

M-Pesa costs

Action Cost
Monthly Fee Free
Electronic transfer from bank account Free
Buy airtime via mobile phone Free
Cash deposit Free
Money transfer R1 to registered usersR4 + R1/100 (excluding first R100)Cap = R10 to unregistered users
POS withdrawal in shop R2
Cash withdrawal without card R2 + R1/100 (capped at R10)
ATM withdrawal R5 + R1/100 (capped at R27)

This article was first published on BusinessTech.

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Vodacom relaunches M-Pesa in SA