Safaricom is a pioneer in the mobile money space worldwide, and even though the FinTech space has grown tenfold, M-Pesa users still have to rely on the native SIM-card application to use the service.
Unlike Line, WeChat and Facebook Messenger where a user can send/receive money from the same platform, they are having a conversation. M-Pesa requires the user to leave the platform they are chatting and open a separate SIM card toolkit application to effect the payment.
Safaricom is reportedly working on a new social messaging application Bonga, which will natively integrate M-Pesa payment service. Bonga is a Swahili word for chat, and should Safaricom launch it; we could see up to 28 million users chat and in that very same platform send and receive money via M-Pesa.
“It’s one thing to share information with somebody, it’s another thing to make a payment, to send money to somebody. We want to use this platform to make it much easier… for people to engage,” said Kamal Bhattachary, the chief innovation officer at the telecom.
Bonga becomes the first product to be launched by Safaricom’s in-house incubation hub Alpha. The app is yet to go public, as Safaricom still runs it in beta stage among its staff. There are reports that the app will be encrypted.
“We cannot read the messages, we cannot keep the messages,” said Bhattacharya.
The addition of Bonga messaging app is part of Safaricom value-addition to M-Pesa services with the aim of driving up customer satisfaction hence more revenue for the company. Other than voice calls, SMS, mobile money, and mobile broadband, Safaricom now hopes to add a social messaging platform to its offerings to the Kenyan market.
“Our future is to become a platform that enables business in Kenya as well as our consumers to do their work in a different way. Messenger platforms are the most popular apps, the most popular approach on the internet today to bring people together,” said Bhattacharya.