Safaricom, a listed Kenyan mobile network operator headquartered in Nairobi, announced it had secured a deal to use its M-Pesa mobile payment service for online shopping on one of Alibaba’s platforms.
The move is in line with Safaricom’s bid to expand its most profitable product beyond Kenya. AliExpress.com, run by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, will allow Kenyan shoppers to buy goods on the site using M-Pesa in a matter of weeks.
M-Pesa was launched more than a decade ago to offer Kenyans without bank accounts a network to transfer cash through their mobile phones. It now offers a range of payment services, loans and savings to more than 21 million people in Kenya and has been copied abroad.
AliExpress.com is an online shopping portal for businesses and retail customers.
The Chief Customer Officer of Safaricom, Sylvia Mulinge said “as our customers get more digital, they want to shop in a more digital kind of a format, that’s why we are seeing e-commerce growing”.
Safaricom revealed that the partnership will see Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba that runs the portal’s payment services, offer M-Pesa as one of the payment options with transactions denominated in Kenyan shillings.
A statement released by Safaricom said “the move especially targets microtraders in the country who source goods and other supplies from manufacturers in China”.
Safaricom, Kenya’s largest operator that is partly owned by Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone, said the deal was part of an effort to transform M-Pesa into a global payments platform. M-Pesa has become a major profit driver for Safaricom.
In November the company signed a deal with Western Union to allow M-Pesa users to send money around the world using their cellphones.
Mulinge said the partnership with Ant Financial will allow M-Pesa users to shop on AliExpress without a credit card.
Safaricom is the market leader in Kenya with 65 percent of cellphone users, or 30 million subscribers.