Kenya: M-Pesa Grip Tightens as Airtel Money Loses 3.7 Million Customers

Airtel has lost 3.74 million customers on its mobile money service or 91.9 per cent of the telco's cash transfer subscribers in the year to March, cementing M-Pesa's market share grip.

The Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya in its latest industry report shows that Airtel Money subscribers plunged to 329, 660 customers at end of March from 4.075 million in similar period last year.

The fall in Airtel subscribers helped grow M-Pesa subscribers' market share to 98.8 per cent in March or 28.84 million users from 81.3 percent a year ago.

DORMANT

M-Pesa recorded a 10.6 per cent rise in customers to 28.842 million in the period under review from 26.066 million in March last year.

Airtel now holds 1.13 per cent of the mobile money subscribers from 12.7 per cent in March last year, but the value of cash moved through the network remained little changed at 0.1 per cent over the past year.

This suggests that the bulk of 3.74 million customers who quit Airtel Money were dormant subscribers.

"M-Pesa retained the highest market share of 98.8 per cent, whereas Airtel Money and T-Kash recorded market shares of 1.1 and 0.05 per cent respectively," CA said in the report for the quarter ended March.

CA failed to respond to questions on factors behind the subscriber's market share shifts.

COMPETITION CHALLENGES

In the 12 month-period to March, Telkom's T-Kash service lost 87 per cent of its customers to 13,333 from 103,585 in similar period last year, underlining the challenge the two face in competing with M-Pesa.

The total number of accounts at M-Pesa, Airtel Money and T-Kash (owned by Telkom Kenya) fell by 3.6 per cent to 29.185 million at end of March from 30. 245 million in similar period last year.

M-Pesa, which started as a person-to-person money transfer service in March 2007, recorded a 12.6 percent growth in revenue to Sh84.4 billion in the review period, accounting for a third of Safaricom annual sales.

Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has approved the planned Airtel and Telkom Kenya merger, in a deal that could challenge market leader Safaricom's dominance of Kenya's telecoms industry.

MERGER APPROVED

The competition watchdog has approved the planned merger of Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya.

In a notice published in the Kenya Gazette Friday, the Competition Authority of Kenya gave its greenlight for the deal while setting out a raft of conditions including ensuring it retains a number of its employees.

"The merged entity shall ensure that at least three hundred and forty nine (349) of the six hundred and seventy four (674) employees of the target are retained," said the watchdog earlier.

The combined entity would create stronger competition for Safaricom, which now controls about two thirds of the voice segment in terms of subscribers.

Telkom accounted for 5.8 per cent of Kenyan mobile telecom subscribers in March, behind second-placed Airtel, which had a 26.6 per cent market share.

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