Kenya's Safaricom eyes new technology, expansion into Ethiopia

Safaricom is one of the biggest companies in East Africa, its success fuelled by its mobile money service Mpesa.

AFP/Simon Maina

NAIROBI - Kenyan telecoms giant Safaricom is seeking to transform itself into a technology company, offering new financial solutions to anyone from small businesses to farmers, new CEO Peter Ndegwa told AFP.

Listed on the Nairobi stock market, Safaricom is one of the biggest companies in East Africa, its success fuelled by its mobile money service Mpesa, which was launched in 2007 and has become indispensable in Kenya.

Ndegwa, who was named the group's new CEO following the death of Bob Collymore, said the future of Safaricom would come from "combining technology and innovation."

"We want to move away from being a telecom business into a purpose-led technology company," he said.

READ: Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore dies after cancer battle

"That will mean that we will use technology to create change in other ecosystems in the same way that we have done with Mpesa in the financial services area, in areas such as agriculture, health, education."

As an example, he cites the product Digifarm, a mobile platform which allows farmers to access loans, insurance, as well as markets where they can sell their products.

It also gives farmers information and advice on managing their livestock or crops.

Safaricom is 35 percent owned by the Kenyan government, 40 percent by South Africa's Vodacom, while the remaining shares are listed.

READ: Stake in Safaricom drains Vodacom's earnings

The company also wants to extend more services to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), a major driver of Kenya's economy.

Currently with Mpesa, users can send money directly to each other, pay their bills and buy goods at shops and supermarkets, all from their cellphones.

"We are working to enable SMEs being in control of their business and to grow their business," said Ndegwa.

A new product for SMEs will allow them to pay salaries or suppliers via a special application.

Safaricom announced a 13.3 percent revenue growth in its results for the year ending March 2020.

Source
AFP