The trajectory of the coronavirus in Africa is prompting more countries and tech companies to include mobile finance as part of a broader response. The continent’s COVID-19 cases by country were in the single digits until recently, but those numbers spiked last week leading the World Health Organization to sound an alarm.
The country’s largest teleco, Safaricom, implemented a fee-waiver on East Africa’s leading mobile-money product, M-Pesa, to reduce the physical exchange of currency in response to COVID-19. The company announced that all person-to-person (P2P) transactions under 1,000 Kenyan Schillings (≈ $10) would be free for three months.
The move came after Safaricom met with the country’s Central Bank and per a directive from Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta “to explore ways of deepening mobile-money usage to reduce risk of spreading the virus through physical handling of cash,” according to a release provided from Safaricom.
Kenya has one of the highest rates of mobile-money adoption in the world, largely due to the dominance of M-Pesa in the country, which stands as Africa’s 6th largest economy. Across Kenya’s population of 53 million, M-Pesa has 20.5 million customers and a network of 176,000 agents.
With all major providers in Kenya there are 32 million subscribers, which means roughly 60% of the country’s population has access to mobile-money.