There’s a conversation going on online about Safaricom PLc’s money transfer service, MPESA.
The 13 year old tech masterpiece has come under sharp focus on costs of money transfer.
Kenyans relationship with MPESA parent company has never been rosy, with nicknames like ‘sufferciom’, or the corruption of its tagline ‘the biter option’, have been used interchangeably in complaints since.
Being homegrown, MPESA has always come in handy in making money tranfers easier, it has also come under bitter complaints everytime someone looks at their statements and wonder, ‘wow, did I use all that money. I don’t see it’.
While Safaricom bosses might often smile with pride as they announce that data and MPESA, not texts and calls, is what keeps the company in the billion-profit sphere year after year, smalltime users are not spared the high fees. In fact, they suffer the most.
“Do y’all ever look at your MPESA statements and go through the transaction costs? MPESA transactions costs are so ridiculous..you would rather even bank to bank payments,” wrote CurlyCheeks on Twitter.
The above tweet went viral attracting over 102 retweets, 363 likes and over 30 comments. However, the most viral in the recent conversation about how expensive MPESA is came from Shirley_Sein who wrote
“We seriously need to talk about Mpesa charges. Shit is expensive”. There were over 155 comments to her tweet. 4.5 people like it, whereas it was retweeted over a thousand times.
“Not checking your MPESA statements is part of self-care.. because when you do… premium tears”, KurlyCheeks adds.
There’s no doubt MPESA has made it convenient to send money to loved ones. Alternatives like Airtel Money and T-Kash (for Telkom) have failed to excite their bases.
Pesalink, the bank to bank money transfer over mobile phone is making inroads into the phone to bank territory but it not enough.
Even with the new transaction fees, M-Pesa is still very expensive especially for micro-transactions. For example, someone sending KES. 20,000 pays KES. 102, which is 0.51% of the amount. Meanwhile, someone sending KES. 600 will pay KES. 12, which is 2% of the amount.
In 2011, a World Bank article observed that as transaction amounts in MPESA fell, the fees rose. Then CBK Governor Prof Njuguna Ndung’u had pleaded with Safaricom to reduce transaction fees.
“There is no way one can send 50 Shilling at 35 Shillings,” Prof Ndung’u had said.
“This translates into a seemingly exorbitant 70 percent fee for a small transaction equivalent to less than $1”, World Bank wrote
Recent arguments, opinions
“Is MPesa an extortion syndicate camouflaged as a the best thing to ever happen to money transfer market given the exhorbitant transaction costs? I think there’s an urgent need to rethink it,” Kenya Peasant wrote on Twitter
“I stopped using MPESA in 2018. That platform does not align with my long-term financial goals”, team Taiwan wrote in response to KurlyCheeks’s tweet on exorbitant MPESA
The easiness of purchase has also brought up another necessary evil. With money in their MPESA accounts, people find themselves using a lot of money on Aitime which in turn is used to buy data bundles.
“I regret knowing how to purchase airtime via Mpesa”, Mama__Jayden wrote
As the small time users of MPESA suffer, MPESA to bank and Bank to MPESA charges are free.
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