Kenya’s Safaricom to focus on expanding M-Pesa, says interim CEO

A mobile subscriber withdraws money from an M-Pesa agent. M-Pesa was launched more than a decade ago. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG The interim CEO of Kenya’s top telecoms operator Safaricom said on Wednesday he would focus on expanding the firm’s mobile financial services business M-Pesa beyond Kenya.

Michael Joseph took over the helm of East Africa’s most profitable company, which is part held by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone, this month after the death of long-serving boss Bob Collymore.

“I’m particularly keen to work closely with the team to take M-Pesa beyond Kenya,” Joseph said in a statement, adding he would lead the company while the board found a permanent CEO.

Joseph, who is a board member, served as the CEO until 2010, when Collymore took over.

M-Pesa, which allows users to send money, borrow, save and pay bills even on a basic mobile handset, has been the key driver of the company’s profit growth in recent years, helping pick up the slack in data and voice revenue streams.

Collymore had told Reuters in May that Safaricom and Vodacom would buy the intellectual property rights of M-Pesa from Vodafone for $13 million, so they could expand the service in Africa.

M-Pesa, launched more than a decade ago, now serves more than 22.6 million people in Kenya and has been copied abroad.

Joseph also said he would work on the data business to attain a better balance between consumption and revenue growth.

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