Opinion

What is happening with M-Pesa?

What the heck is going on?

Safaricom has acknowledged the ongoing M-Pesa issue with Paybill payments. This is many hours in to the whole issue, and it follows a message from yesterday where the company issued a similar notice only then saying it had been resolved. This is the latest of such inconveniences with M-Pesa outages.

First of all, it is very weird for a mobile money service a whole country trusts to have downtimes with no notifications apart from short paragraph statements on X/Twitter and Facebook well after the fact. Secondly, what happened to proper communication – why are banks first to tell us and not Safaricom? There used to be maintenance notices. And they were proper and would be read by many people to help them prepare for any issues. Is sending an SMS hard, why? Thirdly, what exactly is going on, and why can’t it be fixed? Why isn’t there a proper message explaining all these issues?

Still on this, today very many people have received a prompt to enter their M-Pesa PIN to complete a weird transaction. It is not clear where this is from, and how a business can be allowed to prompt very many M-Pesa customers without it raising any alarms. First, how did they get our numbers? (That reminds me, how are we being subscribed to weird premium messaging services without our consent?) What is the Data Protection office doing about this? Because complaints have been raised for sure.

What is happening with M-Pesa?

When the STK push method first came into place, I raised questions on the security of the feature. Asking why it was being introduced without proper training of customers. It since moved from running from the STK app to being a USSD Popup without needing to even mask your PIN, making it even less secure. With today’s prompts we can see the ways bad players can abuse the feature enmasse. Will there be a statement on the same? Imagine if you were at a supermarket counter and you got this message, wouldn’t you have keyed-in your PIN?

It is imperative that as a country we shift reliance from one mobile money solution. Especially with the way we are constantly having downtimes where businesses and customers lose their time, and potential income when things aren’t working. It is also important that we clamour for better communication from our service providers. If banks can send a message whenever they have a downtime, or whenever things are working, surely so can Safaricom.

What is happening with M-Pesa?

Finally, since Safaricom compensated people who were affected by the last outage, will that be the case going forward? Shouldn’t it? Should it not now be made law that with each downtime customers must be compensated for whatever inconveniences?

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