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Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company earlier last week got into bed with Kenya’s telecommunications heavyweight, Safaricom. As of the 19th of February 2018, Google made it possible for Kenyans to access the paid for applications on the Google Play store by accepting M-Pesa as a viable payment option.
The move aims to open up the Play store and the applications held there into the Kenyan market. Google Play Store previously accepted cards as the only mode of payment for applications. This posed a challenge in the Kenyan market that has a low credit card penetration. M-Pesa is, therefore, a more convenient and applicable mode of transaction for the Kenyan market.
M-Pesa is a mobile money transfer service that first debuted in the market in 2007. This service is provided by Safaricom. The basic idea behind the service was to make it easier for Kenyans to transfer money to each other within minutes from anywhere in the country. It has since evolved from a simple money transfer solution to enabling Kenyans to purchase goods and services from thousands of vendors across the country. It has since gained popularity outside the Kenyan borders and has been replicated in a number of African countries namely, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic Of Congo, Zambia and Uganda.
According to the head Android Partnerships In Africa for Google, Mahir Sahin, the partnership between Safaricom’s M-Pesa and DOCOMO digital that has enabled payments on Google Play Store to be made via M-Pesa will have a critical role to play in the app ecosystem. Users shall be subjected to the usual transaction charges from Mpesa for any and all purchases made on the Play store. Safaricom views this partnership as a stepping stone to the bigger picture of transforming M-Pesa from being just a money transfer service to one that enables Kenyans and other users around the globe function effectively in both the virtual and physical worlds.
Currently, 27.8 million users in Kenya alone enjoy the convenience of sending money, buying goods and services as well as paying their bills from the convenience of their mobile phones. This is quite an impressive customer base when the total population of the country stands at 45 million. This translates to over half of Kenyans making use of the service every day. Safaricom, on the other hand, boasts of 13 million smartphone users making use of their network. A large majority of these smartphones run on Android making Google services rather dominant in the Kenyan Market.
However, for Google and M-Pesa to fully exploit the possibilities that their new partnership presents, there is a need for Google to make it possible for Kenyan merchants looking to sell their applications on the widely used Play Store to register. As it stands, it is not possible for Kenyan merchants to register their applications on the Play Store. Such a move could see more applications tailormade for the Kenyan consumer being available on Play Store, in turn, boosting downloads from the store.