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Safaricom, through its innovation arm Alpha, has been working on a new instant messaging platform to take on the likes of WhatsApp and Messenger. The app, dubbed Bonga Sasa, is said to have a neat trick up its sleeve and that is deep M-Pesa integration.

If this sounds like a dream, believe me, it isn’t. Safaricom set up the Alpha team sometime last year and appointed former iHub CEO, Kamal Bhattacharya to head the unit. Since then, there’s been little-to-no activity coming from the said innovation hub, well, at least in the public domain. Bonga Sasa is the team’s first project and it was launched under private beta on 26th April, after months of research.

To understand the motivation behind Alpha making such a move, we will refer to the words of Safaricom’s Chief Innovation Officer, Kamal Bhattacharya, who termed Safaricom as a social network because, “The connections made through text messages, phone calls and mobile money all speak to this.” The Alpha team also believes that most people, especially parents and their children, send messages or call to request and confirm receipt of money and thus, they built a platform that could cater for all that.

According to Kamal, Bonga takes what Safaricom is well-known for, M-Pesa and builds a chat feature around the service thus allowing customers to connect with their family and friends, and perform mobile money transactions seamlessly, from within the app.

Dedicated M-Pesa Button

Among the key features that the app will possess, includes a dedicated M-Pesa button – which allows the users to tap to review their M-Pesa balance, send and request money from within conversation. The “Request Money function will allow one person to request the other to send them a certain amount of money. The most interesting feature of them all, however, is the ability to input your M-Pesa PIN securely from within the app without having to receive a pop-up menu from the SIM Toolkit.

At the moment, we have seen platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat integrate mobile payments into their platforms in a bid to make it easier for their users to transact but if Safaricom Bonga comes to fruition, it will be a first for Kenya.

We have no idea when the app will officially launch, however, the one question we have for you is, will a deep M-Pesa integration motivate you to use Safaricom’s new instant messaging platform, Bonga Sasa?

Here are a few screenshots of how the app looks like, tap to view full screen:

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