Apex bank extends free mobile money transactions amid COVID-19

By Agencies

Kenya’s central bank (CBK) on Wednesday extended free mobile money transactions below 1,000 shillings (about 9.5 U.S. dollars) to help promote cashless transactions amid COVID-19 pandemic.

CBK noted a significant increase in the use of mobile money channels by individuals in both value and number of transactions since its announcement of measures to facilitate increased use of mobile money transactions instead of cash in March.

“Most of the increase was in low-value transactions of 1,000 shillings or less. This band accounts for over 80 percent of mobile money transactions and charges were eliminated, which has helped cushion the most vulnerable households,” the apex bank said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The transaction fee waiver which was agreed by mobile phone firms and other companies in March was aimed at cutting down on the handling of cash and the attendant risk of COVID-19 being transmitted from person to person through cash handling.

According to CBK, more than 1.6 million additional customers are now using mobile money channels. However, business-related transactions have declined marginally, it said.

The banking industry regulator noted that the measures were timely and highly effective in facilitating official and personal transfers at a time of great need.

“CBK assesses that the increased wallet and transaction limits that were also announced have led to increased usage at higher amounts and greater convenience,” it said.

The CBK retained the reviewed tariff of mobile-money transactions above 660 dollars, noting that the reserve bank has retained the waiver on fees charged by payment service providers (PSPs) and commercial banks for transfers between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.

The apex bank agreed to the waiver of the fees with mobile-money operators on March 16, as the sector vowed to support mitigation measures to contain the virus.

According to mobile operators, the measures introduced by the CBK have however impacted on revenue earned with Safaricom for instance reporting a loss of an estimated 52 million U.S. dollars in mobile money transfers in three months to June 30.

Meanwhile, the country’s COVID-19 cases passed 5,000 mark on Wednesday to 5,206 after 254 more patients tested positive from a sample size of 4,859 carried out in the last 24 hours.