On Tuesday, January 9th, 2024, a significant number of betting sites in Kenya faced substantial losses as M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service, experienced an unexpected outage.
Safaricom, the company that owns M-Pesa, attributed the interruption to scheduled maintenance. As a result, the M-Pesa app, USSD code, and SIM card tool were all unavailable.The service was down from 11:00 am up to 2:00 pm.
The betting businesses, which heavily depend on M-Pesa for customer transactions, were significantly affected by the outage.
Estimates suggest that Kenyans place bets worth KES 168,333 every minute. Considering the duration of the M-Pesa downtime today, which lasted for almost 180 minutes, it is estimated that gaming companies have incurred losses amounting to millions of shillings.
In Kenya, all online betting sites depend on M-Pesa, as it allows customers to easily deposit and withdraw money from their online wallets using the mobile platform. Consequently, only those customers who had sufficient balances in their betting accounts before the outage could continue to enjoy the thrill of betting.
However, companies that had integrated with alternative telecom options, such as Airtel Money, witnessed many of their customers opting to use these alternatives to deposit and withdraw money from their online wallets. Unfortunately, customers who had opened their betting accounts using their Safaricom numbers were unable to access these workarounds. This is particularly significant, as the majority of customers prefer using M-Pesa with their Safaricom lines due to the system’s efficiency in managing online betting accounts.
Safaricom, while confirming the outage, released a statement that read, “M-PESA is undergoing scheduled maintenance.”
Fortunately, iGaming AFRIKA, has established that the downtime was resolved and normalcy has now been restored. M-Pesa users are once again able to conduct transactions seamlessly.
Safaricom is however, yet to make a public statement to this effect, assuring the public that services have resumed.
The outage sheds light on the vulnerability of businesses that rely heavily on a single platform or service provider. The betting industry, in particular, relies on smooth operations to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. Instances like this highlight the need for diversification and the integration of multiple payment options for an uninterrupted consumer experience.
Moreover, this incident serves as a reminder to customers to have contingency plans in place when relying on a single service provider or platform. While M-Pesa is a popular and efficient platform, exploring alternative options such as Airtel Money or other telecom services can prevent inconveniences during outages.
Due to significant losses suffered by numerous Kenyans as a result of downtime, the Fintech Association of Kenya stresses the importance of additional telecom operators entering the Kenyan market.
“M-Pesa’s downtime is not just an inconvenience; it’s a wake-up call. By acknowledging vulnerabilities, fostering competition, and investing in resilience, Kenya can ensure that its digital heartbeat remains strong and its economy continues to thrive, even in the face of unforeseen challenges.
M-Pesa’s downtime is not just an inconvenience; it’s a wake-up call. By acknowledging vulnerabilities, fostering competition, and investing in resilience, Kenya can ensure that its digital heartbeat remains strong and its economy continues to thrive, even in the face of unforeseen challenges.” Fintech Association of Kenya.