Kenyan Banks Go After M-PESA with Inter-Bank Mobile Money Transfer Platform

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After a long wait, the Kenyan banking industry’s umbrella body, Kenya Bankers Association, has today unveiled its own real-time interbank switch dubbed PesaLink.

The system, which is specifically aimed at mobile phone users, will see customers able to send money to one another and to bank accounts without the need for intermediaries.

Previously, mobile money services like Safaricom’s M-PESA have acted as the link between customers and banks. Customers would send money to their bank accounts and withdraw the same using their mobile devices through M-PESA.

Banks have been keen to reverse that trend with their own product. However, the product has been delayed over and over again. Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) subsidiary Integrated Payments Services Limited (IPSL), which was formed last year, was expected to have delivered the system by May 2016.

According to KBA, PesaLink has been in the making since 2013 when its member banks “decided to invest in an industrywide switch”.

As at the time of its unveiling today, the PesaLink system only allows peer-to-peer (person-to-person) transfers. Transfers to accounts will be made possible in due course. Users can transact amounts from as little as Kshs 10 to as much as Kshs 1 million, all from their mobile phones, according to KBA CEO Habil Olaka who spoke during PesaLink’s unveiling in Nairobi this morning.

A total of 12 banks that have been testing PesaLink before its launch will headline the first phase of the system’s rollout with their customers able to transfer money among themselves using just their mobile phones and receiving instant notifications as soon as transactions are completed. More banks are expected onboard soon as some are said to be in the final stages of their tests and integration with the new system.

The 12 banks are:

  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • Co-Operative Bank
  • Barclays Bank
  • Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA)
  • I & M Bank
  • Diamond Trust Bank
  • Gulf African Bank
  • Guardian Bank
  • Victoria Commercial Bank
  • Credit Bank
  • Prime Bank and
  • Middle East Bank

Costs for transactions made via PesaLink will vary across banks. Safaricom’s M-PESA currently does not charge for all transactions below Kshs 100.

PesaLink will also be accessible via ATMs, banks’ already existing internet banking platforms, bank branches and mobile agents.

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