Zain has recently launched international transfers (Zap Money) similar to western union that allows individuals to sent money from international accounts to local mobile phones in Kenya. Though this technology is a prospective game changer for e-commerce in East Africa, it remains to be seen whether mobile phone users will be ready to switch to Zap from the more popular MPESA.
However this is also bad news for money exchange websites such as mamamikes which been for years been acting as intermediaries for Zain/Celtel airtime as they are like to loss significant amounts to the ZAP service.
However local ecommerce sites such as BabaWatoto should be able to leverage their epayments using this system and increase the number of exports.
Safaricom which succesfully introduced Mobile money in Africa will have to step up their game and allow access to the API for development of similar intermediary tools or alternatively start the international money transfer service.
By restricting access of their API to public developers they blocked young and geeky Kenyan programmers from rolling out a myriad of applications that can increase competition and therefore create more jobs and a new mobile economy.
This policy may in the end make the difference in the competitive war between Zap and Safaricom.
Let the games begin…