Kenyan authorities have issued an order to telecommunications company, Safaricom, not to process any betting related mobile money transactions. This comes after Liti Wambua, Acting Director of the regulator, Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), wrote to Safaricom that licences for all of the 27 betting companies that operate in Kenya had not been renewed.
The instruction was not only limited to Safaricom but was also issued to Airtel and Telkom Kenya telling them to withdraw mobile money pay bill numbers and SMS codes of all the betting companies which includes market leaders such as SportPesa, Betin and Betway.
This is suspension, which could last indefinetly, will definetly impact the business and revenues of telecommunications companies in Kenya as Safaricom has previously stated that sports betting transactions form a large part of their revenue. This can be seen when you consider the recently leaked database of 11 million Safaricom subscribers who used sports betting services. The impact will likely be the same for Airtel and Telkom Kenya too.
Kenya, the betting nation
Research by Geopoll has previously revealed that Kenya leads the rest of Africa when it comes to betting, in terms of the number of people betting and the amount of money they place on bets. It is no wonder that 20% of adults in Kenya consider betting to be a reliable source of income.
Wambua, according to the letter which Reuters says it has seen, has told the telecommunications companies in Kenya that betting payments should stop, pending the outcome of an ongoing inquiry about their suitability to operate in the country.
Given mobile money penetration in Kenya, this latest action by authorities will definitely not only hurt the mobile service providers but the betting companies as well as they rely heavily on betting transactions that are effected using M-PESA and other mobile money services in Kenya.