Equitel seeks a share of Kenya’s lucrative telco market

By Omondi Julius Odera,  Kampala, Uganda

Equity Bank’s subsidiary, Finserve Africa, has launched Equitel, a new mobile payment and banking platform for its customers, which officially brings to the fore the convergence between mobile and banking services in Kenya.

The new service launch which sends a warning shot to telco firms already involved in the mobile money market indicates the banks intent in tapping gains from the lucrative Telco and mobile money market.

The magnitude of threat of the new entrant manifested itself through concerted efforts from Safaricom; the leading Telco in Kenya in trying to bar the bank from introducing their new innovation. However in the court ruling issued in May 2015 High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola declared that the petition filed to stop the thin Sim roll out did not have grounds to warrant the court to bar the bank from competing in the lucrative money market.

This ruling was a landmark in the bank’s new frontier in their bid to diversify their services. Consequently today marked the launching of the new innovation. The bank has hailed its newest innovation as the answer to promoting greater access to banking services which currently stand at 53percent of the Kenyan population.

“The unveiling of this new platform is part of our 30 year journey of promoting financial inclusion. Our aim is to raise the number of Kenyans with access to banking services to 90percent and above in the first phase,” said Dr. James Mwangi, Equity Bank Group CEO.

Equitel now becomes the first platform in Kenya to combine the best of mobile and banking services to give Kenyans more Freedom, Choice and Control when managing money and staying in touch with their loved ones.

At the same time, the bank unveiled 0764 prefix after hitting one million customers on the 0763 prefix during the pilot phase. “Equitel is providing the bank with another opportunity to continue our mission of offering inclusive, innovative, customer-focused financial services that transform livelihoods, give dignity and expand opportunities,” said Dr. Mwangi adding on that the company has put up an elaborate plan to further boost financial inclusion that transcends limitation of banking time and location.

The new platform eliminates the need for mobile applications in accessing internet banking as even a simple feature phone will work in a similar manner like a sophisticated smart phone further demystifying financial services. “Internet banking has been a preserve of a few but now with Equitel this will be a mass market offering. It will enable all customers to access their bank accounts for 24 hours 7 days a week,” said Dr. Mwangi. The Equitel platform will make banking services more accessible, flexible, convenient and more affordable.

 It is also a unique and universal platform that is interoperable with other systems as users will not only be able to securely send and receive money on the Equitel network but also from other banks and mobile money platforms such as Airtel Money, Yu Cash, Orange Money and MPESA. “We are offering a universal platform whose technology spans from the Equity ecosystem to include other financial institutions and mobile systems,” Dr. Mwangi said.

Equitel is the first platform in Kenya and in Africa to offer a full banking suite without building new mobile infrastructure. Commonly known as a Mobile Virtual Number Operator (MVNO), the service combines mobile and banking in a fresh, ground breaking way.

Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria lauded Equity Bank on their innovation and said the company was proud to serve as partner operator for the Equitel platform.“Equitel services are already running on our network and we are delighted to work with Equity Bank to pioneer this innovation in Kenya,” said Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria. According to Dr. Mwangi, Equitel becomes a value addition for Airtel as the latter will provide telecom services including voice, SMSs and data services for the platform.

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