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Safaricom to add a Bonga messaging app to M-Pesa.

Safaricom PLC has announced a plan to have a social messaging application, Bonga (Swahili word for Chat), which will be linked to M-Pesa.

The service, which is in pilot stage, will be integrated with M-Pesa to allow the subscribers to communicate beyond sending money to one another, transforming the platform into a type of social network.

The company is first piloting Bonga with its staff before planning to launch later this year.

Kamal Bhattacharya, Chief Innovation Officer at Safaricom says that they want to use this platform to make it much easier for people to engage.

Bhattacharya said the platform will be end-to-end encrypted.

“We cannot read the messages, we cannot keep the messages,” he said.

Three new features
M-Pesa users will be able to message each other on Bonga in three ways: user-to-user, user-to-business and fundraising through “social groups” much like the group function on WhatsApp.

Bonga is the first product launched by the company’s innovation incubator Alpha.

Last year it launched Masoko, an e-commerce platform.

It’s first-half revenue announced in November showed that revenue from M-Pesa rose 16%, while revenue from phone calls rose by far less – only 4%. Mobile internet service revenue rose by nearly a third.

“Messenger platforms are the most popular apps, the most popular approach on the internet today to bring people together,” Bhattacharya noted.

Safaricom is 35% owned by South African group Vodacom and 5% by Vodacom’s major shareholder Vodafone. With nearly 30 million users, the company has 70% of Kenya’s total mobile phone subscribers.

The introduction of Bonga is part of Safaricom’s strategy to boost revenue and diversify from offerings of voice calls, mobile money and text messages.

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