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The sector is turning out to be a major source of employment in the east African nation as Kenyans embrace mobile phone cash transfer services, which they use to pay bills, send cash and repay loans among other services. Statistics from the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) indicated that close to 50,000 people are employed in the industry as mobile money agents. In a report released on Tuesday in Nairobi, CCK noted the number of people working as agents stood at 49,079. The number grew in the quarter ending June by 7.02 percent, rising from 45, 861 by March. "At the end of quarter under review, there were 49,079 active mobile money transfer service agents compared to 45,861 recorded in the previous quarter and 42,313 posted at the end of the previous year. This represents a quarterly and an annual growth of 7.02 percent and 15.99 percent respectively," said CCK.
The regulator noted that, through a value addition in the mobile telephony industry, the sector continues to create employment opportunities across the east African country. All the four mobile phone companies in Kenya namely Safaricom, Airtel, Yu and Orange offer money transfer services, with Safaricom, which pioneered the service in 2007, controlling the mobile money market in the country. CCK data showed that as of June, there were 19.5 million mobile money subscriptions. The number grew by 2.73 percent from 18.9 million in the previous quarter. The main work of those employed in the sector as agents by the four service providers include handling deposits and helping clients withdraw cash at outlets scattered across the east African nation.
In the period from April to June, the agents handled 2.3 billion U.S. dollars, according to CCK. The amount increased from 2.1 billion dollars in the previous quarter. Similarly, in the financial year 2011/2012, the agents handled 8 billion dollars, up from 5.8 billion dollars in the previous year. "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing unmet demand for financial services thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country," said CCK.
Cyrus Njenga is among Kenyans employed in the mobile money sector as an agent. The businessman, who runs five outlets of the service in Kenya's capital Nairobi, noted that mobile cash transfer services are fast growing. "People across Kenya have embraced the services, which facilitate faster transfer of cash. In every village in Kenya, I bet there is a mobile money transfer outlet," noted Njenga on Wednesday. "I started with one shop in 2008 in the central business district, which I run myself along other businesses. This has given rise to the four others that I opened in different estates in Nairobi and I believe there is still room for growth," said Njenga, who has employed seven people.
The 38-year-old observed he makes good money from the money transfer outlets every month."We are paid commissions by the service provider. Of all my shops, the one in the city center is the busiest and it gives me good money in terms of commissions," said Njenga, who refused to divulge how much he makes in a day, but said the business is better than being employed. While CCK put the number of mobile money agents across Kenya at 49,079, Njenga noted the sector has employed more people."The 49,079 are agents only. But the agents also have sub- agents and one agent can have more than one person under him," he said. The trader believed the sector could be employing over 100, 000 people. "Majority of those agents and sub-agents, while they are the owners of the shops, do not run the businesses themselves, they have employed other people. This makes the number of people working in the sector big," said Njenga.
The mobile money transfer industry has therefore comes as a relief to Kenya's unemployment crisis, which is on the rise, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF). IMF put the east African nation's unemployment rate at 40 percent. Out of this, 64 percent are the youths. Majority of those who are employed in mobile money shops in Kenya are young people. However, rise in the mobile money shops has come with a price as criminal activities targeting the outlets and agents rise."Criminals know that mobile money shop operators handle hundreds of dollars each day. They are targeting them and stealing money. The goons are finding it easier because some of the shops are not well secured," noted Njenga. (Xinhua)