How Safaricom became Kenya’s largest ISP.
There is something almost too successful about Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network. Apart from being the largest company in East Africa in terms of revenues, Safaricom continues to morph from being “just” a mobile network into so much more at the detriment of (formerly) formidable incumbents. Today, Safaricom is not only used for making phone calls, but is also a leading financial services and internet service provider (ISP).
When Safaricom began operating over 10 years ago as an unreliable and small mobile network of less than 20,000 subscribers, who could have guessed how far they would go. In just over a decade, Safaricom is now the largest mobile network in East Africa. They have over 13 million subscribers as of this writing (Kenya has around 18 million mobile subscribers in total on all four operating mobile networks). A few of years ago, Safaricom launched M-Pesa which is now the largest mobile money service in Kenya with in excess of 7 million users. So successful has M-Pesa been that Banks who initially derided the service have now signed up as partners in droves – talk about change being the only constant!
To put Safaricom’s Internet dominance into perspective, total Internet users in Kenya currently stand at around 4 million. Therefore, the numbers would suggest that just under 45% of ALL Internet users in Kenya are using Safaricom as their ISP (although this may not be exclusively the case since for instance I use Safaricom but also use two other ISPs at home and in the office). How did this happen? Its all about speed and mobility – that is the value proposition of Safaricom’s internet offering, even if it is one of the most expensive services out there owing to their pricey data-capped bundles.
But it doesn’t end there. Over the last couple of years, Safaricom acquired several existing ISP’s and integrated them to launch Safaricom Business last year. Safaricom Business is a business and corporate Internet service that has entered the marketplace with highly competitive prices with lots of “extra” goodies to sign-up. So, it would appear, its only a matter of time before Safaricom becomes your one and only connection to all things Internet in Kenya – on the move, in the office, and at home. Just as they have reinvented the financial services sector, Safaricom must be giving other ISPs the jitters.