Coronavirus is currently the deadliest disease virus in the world right now and it has had impact on the lives of people and businesses in the countries affected, Kenya is one of the countries affected and telecommunication agencies like Safaricom and Airtel are currently taking steps to help prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. For the next 90 days, mobile money transactions that include person-to-person below Ksh. 1,000 ($9.67) on MPesa which is a mobile money service owned by Safaricom will no incur no costs to Kenyan customers.
This act is in response to a demand placed by the Kenyan government for organisations to encourage online transfers in the wake of COVID-19, coronavirus disease.
A meeting ensued on Monday morning between the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and Payment Service Providers (PSPs), and a number of measures took effect from midnight March 16 to June 30, 2020. It was agreed that the transaction limit for mobile money is to be increased from Ksh. 70,000 to Ksh. 150,000 ($677 to $1451).
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Being the biggest mobile money operator in the country by the value of transactions and volume they have, Safaricom has about 75% of Kenya’s market share with MPesa generating one-fourth of $2.2 billion the company generated in revenue in 2018.
Some other temporary changes declared by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) which Safaricom agreed upon includes daily and monthly limits increase for transactions. CBK said, “PSPs and commercial banks will eliminate charges for transfers between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.” stating that the measures are part of the goal to limit the spread of the disease through handling of banknotes.
It is also in line with the measures to reduce the virus globally. Countries are taking some serious measures to curb this disease,ultraviolet light has been used to sanitize banknotes, South Korea also recently stopped the circulation of banknotes and the Louvre Museum Paris isn’t accepting cash from visitors.
Big organizations like the World Health Organization still have no particular guide on avoiding cash as a coronavirus preventive measure. According to MIT Technology Review, “There isn’t much evidence that quitting cash would make a difference at least in the case of COVID-19.” Nevertheless, the central bank of Kenya is using the global pandemic to their advantage to “reduce the use of cash in the economy over the medium term.”
The first case of coronavirus in Kenya was confirmed on the 6th of March and since then the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has suspended travel for everyone entering Kenya from countries with similar reported cases. Schools have been closed indefinitely and cash transactions are discouraged.
In an address to Kenyans on Sunday, Kenyatta said, “We appeal to mobile operators and banks to take into consideration the situation, and reduce the cost of transactions during this period.” Airtel Kenya has joined Safaricom in responding to Kenyatta’s request as they will waive transaction fees across the country.
According to the BBC, Kenya is one of the 27 countries so far to have identified cases of the virus. Both telecommunication companies have vowed to work with the Kenyan government on a toll-free line for their customers to obtain information on COVID-19.