Vodacom launches ‘Airtime to M-Pesa’ facility

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Vodacom Lesotho Managing Director Ian Ferrao’Mantoetse Maama

VODACOM Lesotho (VCL) on Tuesday launched its “Airtime to M-Pesa” facility, which allows Vodacom subscribers to convert airtime to M-Pesa funds.

M-Pesa is an innovation the telecommunications giant launched in July 2013 through which subscribers can send and receive money, buy airtime and pay utility bills.

According to VCL M-Pesa Manager, Motebang Moeketsi, the innovation is a product of months of careful planning and feedback from Vodacom customers.

“This service not only adds to the already incredible convenience of M-Pesa for our customers, but it also addresses some key challenges that both the customers and ourselves have been looking to solve with M-Pesa; among these are, the availability of M-Pesa float at some agent outlets when customers need it, the limited availability of M-pesa agents in some very remote areas, and the working hours of our M-Pesa agents, whom in most cases, knock off in the evenings, yet the need for the services M-Pesa provides do not stop,” said Mr Moeketsi.

He added that the service did not substitute M-Pesa agents, and was only meant as an added option in the event a customer cannot access an agent.

The “Airtime to M-pesa” service is available to all Vodacom customers who are on prepaid and hybrid (top-up) contracts, and who have the ability to purchase and load airtime into their sim-cards. The service also comes with a fee structure, where a customer who converts airtime to M-Pesa will be charged 15 percent of the converted amount.

VCL advised its customers not to expect a one-to-one conversion rate between airtime and M-Pesa. Furthermore, the company revealed that there would be a daily limit of M200 and a monthly limit of M1 000 on all conversions to ensure the service is not used for money laundering or fraudulent activities.

The launch of the “Airtime to M-Pesa” facility coincides with two years of M-Pesa’s existence. The word M-Pesa was derived from Swahili, where “m” refers to mobile and “pesa” means money. M-Pesa has been adopted and is currently utilised in all Vodafone and Vodacom’s operations across the globe.

VCL Managing Director Ian Ferrao said the month of July is very important to the company as they were celebrating two years of M-Pesa’s existence.

“Within five years, we want to see five percent of countries’ GDP going through mobile money,” Mr Ferrao said.

“M-Pesa is making transactions simple and allowing people to do things at their own time. We have 600 000 customers registered on M-Pesa and 150 000 transact on a monthly basis.”

VCL Executive Head of M-Pesa, Palesa Mphunyetsane, chipped in saying the “Airtime to M-Pesa” facility was only “scratching the surface” of what the mobile money platform can do.

“M-Pesa is an extremely powerful service, for any community, but more so for a developing country such as Lesotho,” said Ms Mphunyetsane.

“We are committed to continuing to invest in M-Pesa, and improving the service to meet the broad needs of our customers, and the needs of the country as a whole. “We are excited to bringing this new service to our customers, and we hope that as they continue to be vocal and give us great feedback, we can continue to deliver to them services and products that will address their most critical needs.”

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