M-Pesa, the ubiquitous mobile money platform in Kenya, has revolutionized how millions transact their daily lives. Yet, in a world increasingly embracing contactless payments, its reliance on Lipa Na M-Pesa feels like a relic of the past. Enter Near Field Communication (NFC), a game-changer that I think is poised to propel M-Pesa into the future of African payments.
What is NFC?
NFC enables contactless payments through secure communication between smartphones and NFC-enabled terminals. Users simply tap their phone near the terminal, and voila! Payment is complete. No more fumbling with cash or entering lengthy PINs – a seamless experience. This technology powers mobile wallet payments such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
M-Pesa hasn’t entirely ignored the contactless trend. Its partnership with Visa offers virtual cards linked to M-Pesa wallets, allowing online and in-app purchases. However, this approach remains limited to digital spaces, excluding the vast majority of African merchants who primarily operate offline. So as expected, M-Pesa has decided to try and launch physical debit cards (again), this time with the help of Visa.
Is this the right path to take? Mastercard’s 2023 Contactless Adoption Survey reveals that 74% of smartphone users in Africa have made contactless payments, with this number expected to rise further. Visa actually predicts that contactless transactions in Africa will reach $86 billion by 2027, highlighting the immense potential this space holds.
The writing is on the wall: NFC is part of the future of payments in Africa. M-Pesa, with its unparalleled reach and brand recognition, has the unique opportunity to spearhead this transition. By actively promoting and integrating NFC-based solutions, M-Pesa can not only maintain its dominance in the African payments landscape but also empower millions across the continent to embrace a truly seamless financial future.
How M-Pesa Can ‘Tap’ Into the NFC Space
LETS PRETEND M-PESA 1TAP NEVER HAPPENED!
Africa’s mobile revolution dovetails perfectly with the rise of NFC payments. Smartphone penetration in Africa is projected to reach 68% by 2025, with an increasing percentage equipped with NFC capabilities. This presents a fertile ground for M-Pesa to leverage NFC and capture a significant share of the growing contactless payment market.
Back in February last year, I expressed discontent that Google Pay was not available in Africa, and this is yet another avenue Safaricom could tap into, while M-Pesa’s existing virtual card offers online convenience, integrating with mobile wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay could be a game-changer.
These established platforms boast millions of users globally, acting as gateways to a vast ecosystem of NFC-enabled merchants. Imagine tapping your M-Pesa-linked Google Pay account at a supermarket checkout in London or paying for a ride with your Apple Pay-connected M-Pesa wallet in New York. Such partnerships would instantly open doors to a world of possibilities for M-Pesa users, extending their reach and enhancing their global financial mobility.
I bet this integration can be facilitated through M-Pesa’s existing virtual card infrastructure, allowing users to seamlessly link their M-Pesa accounts to Google Pay and Apple Pay. With secure tokenization and robust fraud prevention measures in place, users can enjoy the familiar tap-and-pay experience while tapping into M-Pesa’s trusted network. This partnership would be a win-win, boosting M-Pesa’s international exposure and offering Google Pay and Apple Pay a strategic entry point into the vibrant African market.