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.


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  1. December 1, 2013 at 6:12 am — Reply

    Yes Safaricom is coming in too late into this game. I am not using late in the context of “Someone else has already built it” but in the context of “Why the hell are they not doing it already”. Ecommerce in Kenya stalled because of Mpesa. Had Mpesa never been introduced then the number of Kenyans who would have adopted visa+atm cards might has jumped 10 folds. However many of us do not need a bank account simply because I have Mpesa. For that specific reason applications that would have soared died.

    I have one prediction. Safaricom is selfish and scared at the same time. In no way will they launch an API to have us take it and launch some competing product. Instead I highly suspect that they may launch their own cart. The paypal style.

    Otherwise anything else will be some stupid m-* product that no one will use.

  2. December 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm — Reply

    The real barrier for ecommerce in Kenya is delivery. How to get goods from seller to buyer, especially if buyer does not have an official street address.

    My dream/wish is that Safaricom has teamed with Google and G4S so that you can order a physical good and G4S delivers it to you based on your phone location, a G4S office, or a Google Maps address (actually GPS waypoints), with the latter becoming your official address for future deliveries and possibly also governement services/records.

    • December 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm — Reply

      I actually disagree.
      I however agree that delivery is a potential gold mine waiting to happen.

      however you should note that companies such as debonairs pizza are actually doing successful deliveries. By just calling you up they are able to know exactly where to make that delivery. They save the instructions given on their devices and next time they actually make a confirmation rather than start from scratch. The real pain has always been payment. They has lacked for a very long time a connector of the web and M-pesa.

  3. December 3, 2013 at 8:59 pm — Reply

    Safaricom should have M-pesa API open to the public and e-commerce will be on another level in Kenya!

  4. December 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    I agree with Wayan that the real barrier that stopping the raise of E commerce in Kenya is delivery problem. If seller won’t find street address then how it goanna be deliver to buyers. I liked the idea of collaboration of Safaricom and Google to launch an application that can track the physical location to deliver the goods or product.

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