Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest mobile phone operator, has launched a service this week that will use short message services (SMS) to transfer money even from or to customers without bank accounts.
The product allows the operator’s 5.8 million subscribers to use their mobile phones to send money within Kenya where often the money earner of a family is working in a city to support family members living in rural areas.
“…This service is the first of its kind in the world. We have plans to take it elsewhere…the first international link, between the U.K. and Kenya, will come in the very near future…” said Safaricom’s Project Manager Susie Lonie at the launch of the service.
Customers using the service get a new chip installed in their phone at no cost so they can add credit to their account at street kiosks, gas stations or shops — basically with any seller of mobile phone airtime credit. They can send the credit to any other Kenyan mobile phone via a code-bearing text message. Recipients then take their phone with the text message to a retailer or similar outlet to pick up their cash.
Safaricom is the country’s most profitable company and a joint venture between Kenya’s state-owned landline company, Telkom, and Vodafone.
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