Kenya’s Mobile Money Game Changer

Kenya’s Equity Bank is set to roll out its new mobile banking services to customers, thanks to its new innovative slim line SIM technology. This new service will rival market dominator Safaricom’s popular M-Pesa mobile money transfer platform, which currently has over 18 million active users.

Breaking down barriers

James Mwangi, Equity Bank’s chief executive, sees this new initiative as essential to improve the current levels of access to financial services in Africa, as at present most banking needs to be done at a bank branch, which for most citizens in Kenya can be an inconvenient distance from them.

The biggest problem with accessing a bank is not bank charges, it is the cost of access,” says Mwangi. “I will have to go 70km to where the bank is; I will have to pay public transport; I will have to spend the whole day to get to the bank; I have to dress because I have to go to the biggest shopping centre in my district; that is what will be removed.”

New SIM technology

The innovative slim line SIM allows customers to simply slip the SIM card from the bank over their pre-existing SIM card in their cell phone, giving the bank access to their phone’s menu, and the customer access to mobile banking.

This new SIM will be using leading telecommunication firm, Bharti Airtel’s mobile network infrastructure to provide its mobile money service, but this doesn’t mean that customers not currently on Bharti Airtel will suffer, as Equity Bank have brokered a deal that the service will be compatible with all of Kenya’s mobile service providers, Safaricom, Airtel, yuMobile and Orange.

This is an integral part to the successful roll out of Equity Bank’s mobile money service, as customers don’t have to purchase a second cellphone especially for their banking.

It is really the issue of affordability,” explains Mwangi. “If we really want the masses and the low-income people to join banking, then we should make financial products very affordable, and that is the value proposition that we are making to the market.”

Equity Bank had analysed their target market thoroughly before rolling out their thin SIM technology through their subsidiary, Finserve Africa. “Finserve’s services are targeted at poor people who cannot afford the luxury of a duo-SIM mobile phone but need to have access to at least two lines for their various needs and within their budgetary constraints. This need is currently not being met by any of the existing service providers, and that is the critical gap that Finserve seeks to fill through the roll out of the Thin SIM technology,” reads the letter from Finserve to the Director General of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), Mr Francis Wangusi.

In this same vein, Equity Bank has announced that they will not be charging more than Sh25 for amounts transacted through the service, which will hit Safaricom’s M-Pesa’s market share hard.

Mobile Money improves security

By customers being able to use the new SIM card in their phones, the network is secure, and safer than using an ATM.  Another upside is that mobile money services allow customers to go cashless in their everyday lives, instead of having to carry around potentially large amounts of money.

Supporting the integration of a cashless society, Kenya’s ‘matatus’, the locally used name for the countries system of minivans and buses, is moving steadily towards cashless fare payment options. “We are trying to use technology to make our lives easier, and make our issues with handling cash become history,” says Simon Kimutai, chair of the Matatu Owners Association.

For further reading, go to these sites:

  1. Kenya’s mobile innovation brings digital money closer”, Sundiata Post, 4 July 2014. Available at:
  2. Bilal Amjad, “Kenya Mobile Money Revolution”, A2Z Support Solutions, 4 July 2014. Available at:
  3. Jevans Nyabiage and Wanjala Were, “Face off: Safaricom vs Equity Bank”, Standard Digital, 7 July 2014. Available at:
David Okwara

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