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Govt takes Safaricom to task over M-Pesa outage

Govt takes Safaricom to task over M-Pesa outage

M-Pesa users in Kenya were caught unawares by a services outage that impacted on millions of mobile money transactions nationwide over the weekend.

A statement issued by Safaricom confirmed several complaints received throughout Saturday and on Sunday morning. The telco attributed the outage to slow database response, which the company sad led to fewer transactions being processed.

"Consequently, this led to the queuing of incoming transactions and a delay in response to customers," the telecom said.

The same issue occurred on Sunday morning, but Safaricom said it lasted only for 34 minutes before being resolved.

According to Safaricom, M-Pesa records 17 million transactions every day and it has over 23 million monthly active users.

Joe Mucheru, the ICT Cabinet Secretary ordered a probe into the outage. "The ministry has instructed the CA to liaise with CBK and investigate the cause of this outage and forward a report to government including remedial measures that Safaricom will take to ensure this outage does not happen in the future."

Meanwhile, Telkom Kenya CEO Mugo Kibati took the opportunity to reignite the debate on mobile money interoperability between agents of different mobile money products.

"Mobile Money infrastructure sharing in the form of agent and merchant interoperability is indeed a way to mitigate a single point of failure, enabling service providers to invest in more points of distribution and providing customers with more options," he said in a tweet on Sunday.

"Removing existing barriers to entry will enable the presence of stronger alternative mobile money providers that are already investing heavily into this space enabling them to provide redundancy, thereby mitigating systemic risk," Kibati added.

Kris Senanu, Managing Director of the Enterprise Division at Telkom Kenya weighed in on the debate saying: "There's an urgent need to de-risk our economy of these downtimes. A serious concerted effort to ensure proper integration and interconnection between telcos, banks, other money platforms and their agents is needed to create true redundancy to solve this for the long term."

According to the Central Bank of Kenya's 2017 Budget Policy statement: "Technological innovation via the mobile money transfer services and its pivotal role in the economy should therefore be given due consideration as a plausible fiscal risk."

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