There is a likelihood every adult Kenyan with a phone has used M-Pesa services at least once. M-Pesa is the biggest mobile money service not only in the country but also in the continent and globally. This creates an opportunity for starting an M-Pesa agent business in Kenya.
According to statistics by Statista, in 2021 M-Pesa transactions grew from 6.4 billion in 2017 to an average of 15 billion in 2020.
M-Pesa accounts for over 90% of all mobile money transactions done in the country. This growth has created opportunities for agency businesses. Agents offer M-PESA customers avenues to deposit and withdraw from their wallets.
By doing so, they benefit by getting a commission for every transaction they transact. This has made this business a multi-billion industry with thousands of agents already in operation.
Agency business in Kenya is done by both individuals and large organizations such as banks and supermarkets.
This article will focus on explaining the process of starting and running a successful M-Pesa business in the country.
M-pesa Agent Registration
The first step of becoming an agent is getting registered by Safaricom. This is a simple and fast process that requires little effort.
Safaricom has three categories of the requirements needed to conduct Mpesa business. These include
- Standard requirements
- Exceptional requirements
- Special requirements
Registration process and requirements are normally set by Safaricom. As the product owner, Safaricom is responsible for registering the M-Pesa agents.
Below are some of the registration requirements.
- A limited Company
To qualify as an M-Pesa agent, you need to have a registered company. The company registration process in Kenya is done through the registrar of companies.Company registration process in Kenya.
The process is very straightforward. To fasten the process, you can engage the services of a consultant to get it done for you.
It takes 7- 10 days to get your company registered and costs around 15000 shillings.
The company is also required to have traded for at least 6 months since the date of operation.
- 3 outlet points
Safaricom requires all agents to have at least 3 outlets points where they are ready to carry out the business. Point refers to a physical location.
- 100,000 Shillings Float
This is the amount of money required to start your business. Float is used to facilitate transactions.
You should deposit this money to your agency account within a month after business registration.
- Email and phone dedicated contacts
You need to provide an email address and a phone number dedicated to the business. This is a mandatory provision. They help facilitate all the official communication between the agent and Safaricom.
- Branding requirements
Any premise offering the M-PESA services must comply with the set branding standards by Safaricom. To verify this, Safaricom does a physical inspection of the premises.
These are requirements that apply mainly to those businesses that might not have the mentioned three outlets but are strategic to the business such as banks, Sacco’s, supermarkets, and pharmacies.
To qualify for the exceptional requirement category, you should liaise with Safaricom based on the nature of your business.
This applies under special circumstances based on a case to case. One such example is having an agent in a remote location.
Below are some of the requirements for the registration process.
- Agency application form
- Registration certificate
- Kenya Revenue Authority Pin
- National Identity card
- Business permit
- A valid CR12 Certificate-Applies for the companies
- Certificate of good conduct for the operators
- List of all the outlets
This applies to small agents who don’t qualify to become agents. As a sub-agent, you engage a registered to sublet you an agency line.
This is possible because an agent gets three lines on registration. In most instances, they only use one and sell the rest.
Requirements to Become a Sub-Agent
The process of becoming a sub-agent is simpler compared to that of an agent. Below are some of the requirements;
- A minimum capital of at least 30,000 shillings
- National identity card
- Business permit
- Agent line transaction fees
There are some tools that an agent requires after registration to start operations. These are;
- Agent sim card
- Agent Number
- Agency book
- Agent Sim Card
Every agent has a dedicated sim card that they use for transactions. This is different from the normal card we use to make calls and send messages.
It is normally issued by Safaricom and is unique to each agent.
- Agent Number
Agent number is a few digits number that is unique to an agent. It is the number that customers use to conduct withdrawals. This is also the number that contains float for agency transactions. The number is usually displayed at the premises with a name attached to it.
- Agency book
This is the book that an agent uses to record transactions details. The books contain details such as;
- Customer Name
- Identity card number
- Transaction amount and ID
- Customer Signature
Tips of How to Grow Your Agency Business
Just like any other business, the amount of income in this business depends on the number of customers you serve and the amount they transact.
The more customers you get the better. Below are some of the strategies to make more income from the agency business.
- All ensure you have enough float to serve your customers
I know you have visited an agent for a transaction and they told you they have no float. How did you feel? Lack of enough float discourages customers away resulting in a loss in potential customers.
You should ensure to have an adequate float to facilitate customer transactions. This helps in building your reputation in return increasing your customer number.
- Proper marketing and branding
This helps create awareness to the potential customers on the services you are offering. Marketing is a critical tool in business growth and expansion.
Branding helps increase visibility, especially on mature brands such as Safaricom. You should ensure your shop is well branded and customers can spot it at a glance.
- Strategic business location
Business location is a key element in determining its success. This is more critical when operating in a competitive business such as M-Pesa Agency.
Hence, you should strive to have it in an area with high customer traffic as this increases your chances of success.
A key example of such a location is in busy streets, markets, and shopping malls.
Protecting customer information is key in any financial business. Agency business gives access to a huge amount of customer data such as
- National identity card number
- Phone number
- Transaction amount
Hence, you should ensure to protect to gain customer confidence. Mishandling of this information could also result in legal challenges.
Advantages of M-Pesa Agency business
Running an agency is a business and comes with its unique advantages. Some of these include;
- Access to a huge market
- Income generation
- Easier float management
- Access to a huge market
As an agent, you target to serve M-PESA customers. With over 30 million registered users in Kenya, this is a big market with unlimited opportunities as long as your business strategy is good.
Access to such a market makes it easier for the agent to get customers. You just need to position yourself well and tap into the best customer service skills.
Occasionally, Safaricom does the marketing on behalf of all the agents. This increased brand awareness and makes it cheaper and easier on the agent’s part in marketing.
It is rare to find an agent who is only dealing with the M-PESA business alone. Most agents combine the agency business with other businesses. This is because agency business is not bulky and doesn’t need a big physical business to transact.
Secondly, the customers usually have multiple needs so by offering other services, the agent becomes a one-stop-shop.
Diversification is also beneficial for float management. Hence, it is common to find an M-Pesa agent also offering agency services to banks and utility service providers such as Kenya Power. This helps you to allocate money accordingly depending on the need and demand.
- Income generation
As a commercial activity, the key motive for starting an agency is to generate income. Every transaction that an agent does generates a commission. In practice, income is dependent on them;
- Type of a transaction (deposit or withdrawal)
- Amount of a transaction
- The number of transactions.
This means that the more transactions you make the more money you earn. On average, most of the agents earn between 20,000 -50,000 shillings per month.
Below is the commission breakdown an agent earns per transaction
Agency business relies on easy access to float to make business efficient. Currently, M-Pesa agent buys float from big financial institutions such as banks.
There are also individual businesses that run the Super agency business whereby they sell float to both agents and sub-agents.
Challenges of M-PESA Agency Business
Every business has its unique challenges and threats. It is necessary to understand these challenges to enable better mitigation preparation. Challenges facing agency business include;
- Security challenges
- Float challenges
The ease of starting the agency and the combination with the lucrative commission has attracted a lot of people to venture into the business. Currently, there are over 150,000 agents in-country. This huge number is causing an increase in the competition making it adequate income.
Competition has seen some of the agents being pushed out of the market due to business sustainability.
To survive competition, you need to embrace diversification and innovation. This helps complement your income in case one line of business is under-performing.
- Security Challenges
Agency business requires handling of physical money making them vulnerable to attacks. They are also easy targets in comparison to large institutions such as banks that have elaborate security arrangements.
There have been numerous attacks on agents with others losing their lives and money as a result.
To mitigate some of the security challenges, you need to ensure your business is located in a secure environment and install adequate physical barriers like metal doors and alarms. Finally, you need to ensure your business. This helps with compensation in cases of loss.
Float acts as the business capital. The more float you have the more customers you can serve. Just like any other business, access to adequate capital remains a challenge to the majority of business people especially in developing countries such as Kenya making it hard to achieve optimal results.
Hence, some result in expensive borrowing to finance the float needs.
- Culture change
Agency business relies on the withdrawal and deposit of cash to the M-PESA wallet. Recently, as technology improves and people embrace cashless transactions, the number of people using agents is reducing.
As an example, any Kenyan with a bank account can move money from their account to the M-PESA directly. Payments points have also embraced solutions such as card solutions and Lipa Na M-PESA. This change is reducing the use of cash resulting in less business for the agents.
Although the country still relies on cash transactions, there are expectations these will keep reducing in the future. As an agent, you should start preparing early to enable quick adaptation to the changing culture.
I believe that if you have read this article this far, you are interested in the agency business.
My general advice is that you need creativity and diversification to survive in the market. With this, I mean running an agency business alone could be unsustainable in the long term. Hence, it is best if combined with other businesses.
In any case, the agency business requires very minimal space to operate.
All the best.