Banks to rival M-Pesa, lower transaction fees

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Commercial banks hope to ride on below-market rates to drive subscriptions on their mobile money transfer system which goes live next month.

The lenders are seeking a share of fees from highly growing multi-trillion-shilling mobile money payment transactions, presently dominated by Safaricom’s M-Pesa.

The banks’ platform, PesaLink, enables bank customers to transfer between Sh10 and Sh999,999 in a single transaction. The platform supports transfers through mobile and internet banking, ATMs, branches and agency banking.

Integrated Payment Services, a digital innovations subsidiary of the Kenya Bankers Association, said it will charge banks between Sh10 and Sh12 per a transaction as operational fees for using the PesaLink switch.

Fees for transactions valued up to Sh500 will, however, be waived, IPSL chief executive Jennifer Theuri said.

KBA chief executive Habil Olaka said the banks are expected to pass on the low fees to customers. “The pricing has taken into consideration that we are driving our financial inclusion agenda,” Olaka said. “There’s a deliberate decision at the switch level to waive the fees at the lower end of the consumer public.”

About 12 of the industry’s 42 banks have gotten the Central Bank’s approval to roll out PesaLink. They are Standard Chartered, Co-operative, Barclays, Diamond Trust, I&M, and Gulf African Bank. Others are Middle East Bank, Victoria Commercial Bank, Guardian Bank, Credit Bank and Prime Bank.

Theuri said about 26 of the banks are at different stage of getting regulatory approval to roll out the product.

“There are four banks that haven’t essentially not started any testing for different reasons. Some of them are reviewing their strategies so they can come on board. Others have their head offices outside Kenya and, therefore, they need to go through the approval process,” Theuri said. “But in principle ,all the banks will eventually be on board.”

The transfers will be done real-time, without going through intermediaries, including mobile money transfer platforms like M-Pesa, Airtel Money and Orange money.

“PesaLink has been developed as a complimentary tool to existing mobile money transfer and related wallets,” Olaka said. “As complimentary tool, it is not out to compete with any existing mobile money wallet or transfer product.”

The switch presently allows only transfers from one bank account to another, with further modifications set in the second phase to facilitate partnerships with merchants, government and mobile network operators.

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