Pesalink will die – soon

A lot of time we let our minds wander in empty idleness. When such happens to me, I start thinking God, Religion, Big Bang, Expansion of the Universe, Evolution and recently coronavirus. But yesterday there was a glitch. My idle mind captured the word Pesalink. I immediately knew I had heard of the word somewhere, but I couldn’t recall. Then I Googled only to feel like an idiot.

Pesalink is this three year old mobile payment system by Kenya Bankers Association launched in February 2017. At launch, a friend thought it would be a system to finally give MPESA a checkmate. Business Daily on the other hand ran an article titled PesaLink sounds death knell for cheques. Apparently, none of those two expectations have happened.

As a mobile payment system enabling up to shs 1 million transaction (money transfer) from bank account to bank account, Pesalink was supposed to be this convenient, fast, reliable, instant, cost effective payment platform that would enable businesses turn away from cheque based settlements. More so, being a platform that resides on mobile devices, the system was also expected to reduce reliability on MPESA particularly where bank to MPESA transfers were concerned. The inability for Pesalink to achieve either can be explained by three factors:

  1. Lackluster in marketing
  2. Restriction to bank accounts
  3. Competing mobile money platforms by the banks

Pesalink has suffered a lackluster marketing since conception

At its conception Pesalink received massive press coverage, and this is because at that time it was perceived as this product that brought all the banks to together to take on MPESA headon. Actually Pesalink was fronted to the public as follows, “PesaLink will be a person-to-person (P2P) service but will eventually provide person-to-business (P2B) and business-to-business (B2B) services.”

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The initial press coverage gave Kenyans hope, but after the news cycle died, Pesalink went quiet. No press statements, no advertisements on mainstream media, no social media aggression. It appears Kenya Bankers Association expected Pesalink to miraculously take off by itself to become this formidable force that would instantly give MPESA a run for its money and later on render cheques rendant.

Due to the lackluster marketing strategy, Pesalink has already managed to acquire 1.1K likes for its Facebook page within a span of the two years of its existence. This is an extremely pathetic performance. In comparison, a photography page that I recently took down after setting it up in 2016 received 17K likes within one year – and my strategy was very simple – sponsor a number of photos, let the photo get thousands of likes due that sponsorship, then invite everyone who likes the photo to like the page.

Pesalink on Twitter is not doing any better with its 5.7K fans. You’d expect the payment platform to be performing much better on Twitter as that’s the default social media outlet for Kenya’s middle class – just the type of people who would rather use Pesalink instead of MPESA. By comparison, Faiba 4G that can be argued to be targeting the same market segment launched a year after Pesalink and today is enjoying a cool 20.4K twitter following.

It’s obvious there is close to zero marketing budget for Pesalink, the question now is, why? An argument can be made that Kenya Bankers Association is expecting one of the banks to be on the forefront in marketing pesalink, but none of the banks has shown interest so far. The other reason might just be that Kenya Bankers Association does not receive enough subscription fees from members to enable it market a product such as pesalink.

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Restrictions to bank accounts

One thing Kenya Bankers Association didn’t realise is that success of MPESA was due to its ability to capture the unbanked. With only a mobile phone number, a Kenyan can be able to receive, send and pay bills via MPESA. KBA on the other hand decided to create a platform for those with bank accounts, making it impossible to grow past bank account holders.

Secondly, not all bank account holders find pesalink as as a first priority, given that not only do they have MPESA, but their respective banks have also embraced mobile banking where they can transfer funds from the comfort of their homes through their mobile phones to other bank accounts without having to use pesalink.

These factors have made pesalink to be considered to be just another option available out there, and when someone has an option that’s already working great for him/her, he/she will typically find no need to switch.

Mobile Payment Systems by individual banks

Every major bank today has its own mobile application, applications that can be used to receive and send money, make payments for things like utility bills, buying of goods and services, and related transactions, usually at minimal or zero cost. Since these banks are selfishly promoting their own mobile money banking solutions, they have no incentive to promote another mobile money payment platform that doesn’t immediately benefit them.

This is not just limited to direct marketing, but an indirect one too. For example you wouldn’t find any bank suggesting to any of their customers to do any mobile transactions via pesalink. Instead these banks will use their resources and time to promote and suggest their own mobile banking solutions to the same customers.

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What should Kenya Bankers Association do to salvage Pesalink?

From the writeup it is clear that the biggest problem facing pesalink is lack of marketing budget. Secondly, Kenya Bankers Association ought to find a way through which all banks promote Pesalink as their default mobile payment solution.

To achieve the latter objective, Kenya Bankers Association should borrow from WeChat, a Chinese super app that controls almost every other app in China – particularly the mobile payment ones.

If WeChat is copied, then I’d expect for KBA to convince all banks to have Pesalink as the interface through which the banks run their individual mobile money offerings. For example, a loop user could still access his loop services, not by downloading the loop app, but through pesalink. Same would be true to Equity’s Eazzy Banking Suit or the sister app Mkey, the Barclays (currently Absa) Timiza and those others by Family, KCB, and NCBA banks.

Having every bank to run its own mobile banking app under Pesalink would actually make it mandatory for every bank account holder to have a Pesalink account, hence will find it more convenient to send/receive money through the bank’s supper app.

Otherwise, pesalink will soon die a painless death.

See also: WHY ARE EQUITEL AND PESALINK NOT MOBILE AGENTS OF M-AKIBA?

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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