The advert followed six days of intense media focus on the delay in the licensing of Zain’s money transfer service that is set to compete with Safaricom’s M-Pesa. M-Pesa recently hit 5 million users and transaction volumes reached Kshs 14 billion a day.
The media focus was provoked by Zain Kenya CEO Rene Menza’s comment in a press event a week ago that CBK was frustrating the mobile service operator’s efforts to launch the service. It did not help matters when the Treasury placed an advert in Sunday Newspapers endorsing M-Pesa, only two days after Menza had complained of his companies frustrations.
On the same day that it placed the advert, Central Bank had slotted in a meeting with Standard Chartered bank which has been at the centre of the Zap impasse. Apparently the Central Bank had raised questions regarding Zaps safeguards in the partnership between Zain and Standard Chartered.
The advert and meeting made it clear that public pressure on the Central Bank over the stand off was beginning to make an impact.
Zain CEO said Zap was experiencing regulatory delays mainly at Central Bank for unclear reasons, and that the company was considering avenues of fighting off the delays.
“One of the avenues we are exploring is legal action,” said Meza.
The public spat with the Central Bank has earned Zain some publicity. When Zain took over Celtel, the directors promised to shake up the mobile services market and it did with its low cost tarrifs. On this front the company launched aggressive marketing campaigns with lower tariffs forcing competitors to rework their rates.
In the CBK advert in the local dailies, the banking regulator attempts to exonerate itself from blame saying regulating telecommunication does not fall under her ambit. Says CBK; “the Central Bank has no regulatory oversight role over mobile service providers, licensing was the responsibility of the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK). The Central Bank’s point of interaction with mobile service providers is through its licensee commercial banks who offer a platform for mobile phone financial services.”
On the raging controversy over Zap, the Central Bank points to the fact that Zain has not placed any application to the bank regarding the mobile transfer service. Says the Central bank: “The application under consideration by the Central Bank is from a commercial bank that proposes to partner with Zain in providing a mobile banking and payment solution.
The advert further explains that; “The application has already been reviewed in accordance with statutory and prudential requirements governing licensed banks. Similar due diligence as was also applied to (Safaricom’s) M-Pesa.