M-Pesa (Kenya’s EcoCash) Set To Launch A Social Network To Increase Mobile Money Transfers

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Safaricom (M-Pesa’s parent company) is reportedly working on a new social messaging application Bonga, which will be integrated with its M-Pesa payment service. Its customers will be able to chat and send, receive money on the platform.

The integration of mobile payment technology and messaging applications is a trend taking place globally. Facebook has opened its Messenger app up to payments. In China, Wechat and Tencent have rapidly driven the country towards becoming a cashless society.

Should Safaricom launch Bonga, up to 28 million users  will chat and in that very same platform send and receive money via M-Pesa. This will effectively make it a conversational and transactional social network. The app is yet to go public, as Safaricom still runs it in beta stage among its staff.

The platform is reported to launch in three phases: Bonga Sasa will offer messaging and money transfer between individuals, enabling users to send or receive money while conversing with each other. Bonga Baraza is expected in mid-2018 and will allow users to collect money for purpose-driven events, including Kenya’s harambee collective fundraising drives. And Bonga Biashara will build on the use of social networks for commerce.

What impact will Bonga have on Safaricom?

Safaricom controls 69% of Kenya’s mobile telecommunications market with 29.5 million mobile subscriptions. The company adding messaging capabilities to their customer offerings increases the loyalty of their already dominant M-Pesa platform.

Can Econet follow suit?

Surely, Safaricom knows how to set the rules in the Kenyan business ecosystem Ecosystem, with its tentacles stretching to each and every category ranging from Money, Music, e-commerce and now Social.

Safaricom’s dominant role can be compared to Econet’s leading role in Zimbabwe. Some even dare to say that Econet copies Safaricom with Ecocash matching Mpesa, Ownai matching Masoko and Buddie Beatz somewhat matching Songamusic.

Accordingly, it’s not farfetched to think that Econet will copy Safaricom in introducing a platform like Bonga. But for a platform like Bonga to really gain traction in Zimbabwe, it has to have a superior competitive advantage to WhatsApp, which is the leading social message app in Zimbabwe. So, for Econet to migrate people from Whatsapp to its Bonga-like app will be an uphill battle.

Not forgetting that WhatsApp itself is developing a feature which will enable WhatsApp users to send, receive and make payments. Already in India, Whatsapp users are enjoying this feature.  And Whatsapp  is going out to roll out the feature globally anytime soon.

Therefore, Econet might likely not succeed in following Safaricom’s move as they might find it hard to dethrone Whatsapp should Whatsapp introduce its payment’s feature in Zimbabwe before them.


  1. Wengai

    Ecocash can go ahead and introduce many transfer via its social app. This app is likely to be very much acceptable here in Zimbabwe because of the following reasons;
    1. No local competition (whatsapp does messaging only )
    2. Ecocash is now cross MNO platform therefore has great footprint.
    3. Ecocash can easily integrate other local services such as contextual advertising, free community sevices, on their chat app thus making whatsapp irrelevant.
    4. Whatsapp would have a lot of regulatory hurdles in order to be allowed to operate money transfer by RBZ.

    1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      They will copy it and for some reason it won’t work. We have seen enough of that. Right now someone is probably in an executive meeting at Econet tabling the idea as their own after reading about mPesa on TechZim.

  2. Wengai

    Many is money oooops!!!!

  3. Cephas Ngara

    Ecocash take notes

  4. tsabelanga

    I love wengai’s view points and if anything i expect this to be a reality in the very near future.

  5. Tengfei855

    To think mpesa is the brainchild of a gweru born Zimbabwean whose idea was scoffed at by the likes of econet makes me laugh at times because this could have been us leading the pack not following and imitating what others are doing .

  6. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    EcoCash is Zimbabwe’s mPesa, don’t forget who copied who…

    1. Tengfei855

      Which came first on the global scene…..ecocash or mpesa? If you can answer that you will then be intrigued by the story behind its formation.

      1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        Mpesa came first. Are you living under a rock?

  7. Tengfei855

    Mpesa was launched in 2007 ecocash was launched in 2011……. but did you know mpesa is the brain child of a Zimbabwean who worked initially approached ecocash and they turned him down saying it was an impossible thing to do? Then he went to Vodafone . So who is imitating who?

    1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      mPesa came first. Whether proven or alleged, I don’t see how mPesa being the brain child of Zimbabwean has any relevance. Even if supposedly Econet refused to implement the idea when it was brought to them, the bottom line is that they only adopted the idea after it was successful at SafariCom. By definition, that is copying.

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