Safaricom on Tuesday unveiled a new service on its M-Pesa mobile financial services platform that will allow users to send money around the world in partnership with Western Union.
Started as a money transfer service 11 years ago to fill a gap in Kenya's formal banking network, M-Pesa has evolved into a complete financial service by offering loans and savings in conjunction with local banks as well as merchant payments services .
It also boosted Safaricom's profit growth in recent years, with service revenue growing 18 percent in the six months to the end of September to 35.52 billion shillings ($ 349.43 million), almost a third of the total.
The new service will allow 21 million active M-Pesa users to send and receive money around the world using their mobile phones, which will connect to half a million Western Union agents.
"M-PESA Global seeks to connect Kenyans to opportunities, making it easier and more transparent for them to transact with the world and for the world to do business with Kenyans," said Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, director of financial services at Safaricom.
Users will also be able to send money to bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Britain immediately, with more countries being added in the coming weeks, Safaricom said.
Although Safaricom, which belongs to Vodacom and Vodafone, has 30 million subscribers and a lead among the three Kenya operators in other services such as voice calls, short messages and data, M-Pesa offers a real competitive advantage due to its reach and experience.
The Google Play apps and games store started accepting payments in Kenya through M-Pesa last February. Safaricom is also exploring the possibility of expanding M-Pesa to other African nations, such as Ethiopia.
M-Pesa users will be able to access a special check on their accounts next week so they can pay for goods and services and pay later, Safaricom said last week.
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