3 E-Commerce ‘Things’ Safaricom Could Be Launching On The 4th December 2013
I received the above ‘apple-esque’ invitation from Safaricom last week for an event on the 4th December 2013 sub-titled ‘A New Day In E-Commerce Is Finally Upon Us”. Its hard to tell exactly what this means or what Safaricom could be launching since they practically more or less own m-commerce in Kenya courtesy of over 18 million M-Pesa users. Its really hard to speculate even as ‘conventional’ e-commerce in Kenya has major players like I&M Bank and KCB who have offered these services to businesses for a few years already. More recently, Equity Bank struck a partnership with PayPal and its now possible to sell products and services on their platform in Kenya and beyond.
If I was to look into my crystal ball my suspicion would be that Safaricom could be launching one of several possibilities this week. The first that comes to mind would be that Safaricom could be finally offering an Application Programming Interface or API for M-Pesa. This is something that has been long overdue and would basically enable third-party service providers to directly integrate their e-commerce applications to M-Pesa. This would effectively offer businesses in Kenya the possibility to tap into 18 million M-Pesa customers to buy their products and services online.
The second possible ‘thing’ that I think Safaricom could be launching is an e-commerce marketplace of their own that could compete directly with the likes of Jumia, and OLX in Kenya. The concept I have in mind is an online shopping mall of sorts where businesses could set-up virtual shops stocked with their products and services – think eBay or Amazon in this respect with Safaricom handling all the heavy lifting for transactions using M-Pesa and other value-added back-end functionalities. When one looks at how much Safaricom is pushing for the adoption of its cloud-based offerings like accounting and payroll packages as well as SME web site hosting services, this would be a logical extension of the same to consolidate ALL of these offerings. A very smart move if you ask me.
The third and probably last option that comes to mind is that Safaricom could possibly be working with a bank like the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) who already handle M-Shwari for Safaricom to launch e-commerce services similar to what I&M Bank, Equity Bank as well as KCB already offer in Kenya today. The only difference here would be that the partner bank would serve the role of acquiring transactions via the web whereas Safaricom would handle the transaction processing using M-Pesa as well as other payment channels such as debit and credit cards. I am not sure how this would work exactly but key to execution would be the integration of M-Pesa to whatever sort of value proposition Safaricom plans to launch this week.