PesaPi – An Open Source API for Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya.
Its been a long time coming. Everyone in the Application Developer community in Kenya has been awaiting for ages for Safaricom to release an M-Pesa API that would enable them to build value-added services on the service. Sadly, this has not yet happened to-date although we keep hearing rumours that this could happen at anytime. M-Pesa is a big deal since it has around 13 million users the last time I checked. This means that almost all of Safaricom’s subscribers use the mobile money service making it a truly popular service that ensures customer “lock-in”. In many ways, M-Pesa has become the metaphor for mobile money in Kenya when you hear people utter statements like “Do you have the M-Pesa for <- insert competitor mobile network name here -> for me to send or receive money?”.
Therefore, the big news this week is not that Safaricom has released an M-Pesa API but rather an Application Developer has created a stop gap solution in the form of an open source M-Pesa API. I have known Mike Pedersen for the better part of four years. He is what you would call a “Geek’s Geek” in the sense he is one of the people I know who probably codes in his sleep! Yes, Mike has been in Kenya for the past year or so tinkering around with all sorts of code and he decided why not build an M-Pesa API. The product he has built is called PesaPi and it enables Application Developers to easily connect to M-Pesa services at Safaricom without needing an official API.
Mike insists that PesaPi is NOT a really “new” solution. He says that the same has already been done by the likes of PesaPal and iPay who offer commercial M-Pesa API solutions that are quite similar. In addition, PesaPi has been developed so that other Application Developers can take full advantage of the platform without having to figure out how to do it themselves. They simply “plug-in” to it and use it out of the box. For this very reason, PesaPi is actually targeted to Application Developers who can build their offerings around it for their clients. I asked Mike in the interview podcast below why he opted for an open source model instead of going commercial and he said he was not interested in getting into all the logistics of doing so. I would say he is being quite generous and could potentially disrupt the incumbents in this space.