The Problem with Airtel Money in Kenya

Airtel. Again. I have no hate for this Telco. All my stuff currently depends on Airtel. Meaning I use Airtel for everything. From Internet to… wait. I only need my phone for the internet. Nothing else. WhatsApp (messages plus calls), Facebook, Page Manager, Twitter, Google+ and Pocket.

But today morning I faced a problem I have had with Airtel for so long. One which I thought was solved long ago. I mean with all the recent adverts in the media, why is it still so difficult to find an agent?

Airtel money is free. I can send money to all networks for free. No transaction charges. Nothing. And not only that. I have an Airtel Money Visa Card meaning I can access my Money from any ATM countrywide at just Ksh. 30. Who wouldn’t want that? Especially when the other option is M-pesa which charges you for everything including balance enquiry!

So why are people not using Airtel Money as much as they are using M-pesa?

We know too well Safaricom don’t force us to use M-pesa (or any of their services). Rather it is Airtel who force us to run back to the green option.

Here’s what happened. I wanted to deposit some cash. I live somewhere around 3KM from Maseno town. The place is called Lela. There are no Agents in this town. But I, being informed, used Airtel’s *222# to find agents near me. This was Airtel’s reply: “No Agents in this town. Find next nearest Town”. Hell yeah, walk for 3KM to use Airtel Money!

No Agents Airtel Money

I was a little patient. Plus I always go to Maseno. So I went. And decided to use the same platform to find agents. This time Airtel replied with a long text message of all the Agents in Maseno. See screenshot below:

Airtel Money Maseno

How the hell am I supposed to locate them? Don’t they have colours and branding (or whatever the name) like M-pesa where I just stand and “Oh yeah that’s an Airtel Money Agent”? Couldn’t they give landmarks like Opposite Maseno University Main gate, near Maseno Petrol Station? And for one Posta Maseno doesn’t have an Airtel Money agent. Those Postas listed aren’t near Maseno town. There’s a great mix up of the agents. Some listed are in Siaya, others in Yala, others in Luanda. All these towns are far from Maseno!

Directly to Airtel: If your competitors are everywhere and people find it more easier to access them than you, how then are you even competing?

Airtel Kenya have the opportunity of taking up a great share in the mobile money market. Are they doing it correctly? My take on this is NO. Even the Airtel Money “Mama Mboga” advert is just wrong. And that “I am Mr. Money…” thingy. Okay maybe that’s just me. But I love the “si u smartike hehehe” ad.

If I can find an M-Pesa Agent almost everywhere, including Kesses University (LOL), as I can a KCB Mtaani agent, why then can’t I find agents for the cheapest money transfer option?

Something is not right somewhere.


On Airtel Exiting:

Airtel shouldn’t exit the Kenyan market. There’s still a large market base not yet reached. For example how many teens do we have in Kenya who basically live online? Or how many people in Kenya are yet to buy a smartphone? There’s a huge potential to be tapped into by “the smartphone network”. And the best way is not only being affordable but also offering quality. Plus better marketing strategies. How many know of the Airtel Red Smartphone for example?

The other reason Airtel shouldn’t exit is: We have dual SIM phones. And thin SIMs. Ha!


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