Visa is teaming up with several Kenyan banks on a service that aims to break M-Pesa's stranglehold on the country's mobile payments market.
The new mVisa offering enables consumers to access all of the funds in their bank accounts to pay merchants and people. Co-Operative Bank, Family Bank, KCB, and NIC Bank have signed up to the service.
Visa, is the world's largest payments network but has been outshone in Kenya by telco Safaricom and its hugely successful M-Pesa. The card scheme hopes to change this with the new service, stressing that because transactions run through the Visa network, the consumers and merchants do not need to be customers of the same bank or mobile operator.
For instore payments, Kenyans with smartphones can scan QR codes, while those with feature handsets enter a merchant number. In order to attract all sorts of merchants, whatever their size, the QR codes can be in the form of a static printout or a dynamic display generated on the merchant’s mobile device.
Visa says that the service will help boost financial inclusion among Kenya's 38 million active mobile phones users while merchants benefit from the ability to accept e-payments directly into their bank accounts without the need for POS terminals.
The mVisa service was first launched last year, in India, where it has so far signed up several banks and around 30,000 merchants. Visa now plans to expand throughout Africa, with Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Nigeria likely to join Kenya by the end of the year.
MasterCard is also busy in the African payments market, announcing a collaboration with South African mobile payments startup, iKhokha, to roll out 700 mobile point of sale (MPoS) terminals to cash-based micro enterprises in the counttry.