Safaricom Mobile Money Vehicle M-Pesa Rolls Out “1-Tap” Mobile Payments System After 90,000 Sign Up During Trial Period

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Near Field Communications (NFC) technology is the driving force behind M-Pesa 1Tap, which is making it possible for Safaricom’s customers in Kenya to pay for goods and services with their mobiles in a single step.

M-Pesa’s 1-Tap service requires a customer to use a wristband, phone sticker, or buy a card for a fraction of a dollar in order to be able to use the new technology. They are also required to add a pin code on their phone in order to authorise transactions.

After the merchant has keyed in the details of the sale into their device, they can simply tag the customer device, at which point the customer is prompted to enter their pin to complete the transaction.

It’s simple, and effective. During trials, which took place in Nakuru, Kenya, more than 90,00 customers, and over 2,000 merchants signed up to use the service.

Safaricom’s CEO told ITWebAfrica that “As a trusted, easy and convenient cashless payment solution for more than 70,000 businesses in Kenya, Lipa Na M-Pesa is ready to advance to become a more seamless solution”.

M-Pesa, which has also added a mobile e-commerce solution to its package, is experiencing solid growth in users, the company say. Currently around 26 million people are using M-Pesa, making approximately 10.5 million transactions every day.

Safaricom have also suggested that the NFC technology will make transactions more accurate, as well as faster, and safer, because merchant numbers, which are often subject to human error and processed incorrectly, will no longer be required.

M-Pesa 1Tap will now be made available to all M-Pesa merchants and customers after 4 months of trials. The service will be rolled out initially in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nyeri.

Participating merchants include Shell, Naivas, Oil Libya, Total and QuickMart.

Africa is at the forefront of mobile cashless payments; historically banks did not achieve anything like the penetration in Africa as they did in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, hundreds of millions of Africans are effectively “unbanked”, i.e. they do not have access to a formal bank account.

Mobile phone companies have increasingly stepped in, providing the unbanked with simple to use mobile wallets where they can store money, make payments, and send money to friends and relatives.

According to statistics from Kenya’s central bank, mobile cashless payments accounted for 73% of all cashless payments made in Kenya by value, and 88% by number of payments in July this year.

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It’s no surprise to see mobile money solutions abound across Africa, but Safaricom in Kenya are one of the companies showing the way.

What does raise an eyebrow, perhaps, is the requirement for users to obtain a wristband, card or sticker. Surely it won’t be long before the phone itself becomes the only gadget needed and the star of the show in its own right?