The early morning in downtown Nairobi allows you to do a lot of small things that had been neglected in the past.
Since reading about Safaricom’s new mobile payment system some time ago, which will in future revolutionize the way smaller amounts of money are transfered between mobile phone users (= 5 million Safaricom users and their families & friends!), I was longing to exchange my SIM card to a newer one. One where the internal SIM card set had been programmed to accomodate the M-PESA menu.
The other reason is that the SIM I am using had been given to me by Lady Mbuzimoja earlier last year, and she never gave me the SIM card adapter which holds the PIN2 and PUK numbers. In other words: I urgently needed to get hold of a new SIM with all supplied numbers.
SIM card exchange is FREE in Kenya! Imagine with Vodafone Germany (and Vodafone Plc. being a shareholder in Safaricom!) you pay between EUR 15,- to 17,- for the simple exchange of SIM cards and their resp. activation. This process takes about 2-3 days and the activation about 30 minutes. Now compare that to Kenya – you just walk into a Customer Care Centre and have it exchanged after some obligatory security questions (1.What’s your PIN?, 2.Which number do you call regularly?). Fast, free and very efficient. Also, the SIM cards issued in Kenya offer 255 entries in the telephone book. I’ve exchanged my Vodafone Germany SIM about 3-4 times since 1998 and was always hoping to get more than 200 entries on that SIM. Deploying the settings and telephone directories to a new phone can be a hassle with modern phones as not all of them are compatible to each other and even within the range of Nokia phones, the directories and ways how telephone numbers and addresses are stored differ from phone to phone. Maybe they do this to promote the “MyAdressbook” function on the network which enables users to store their numbers on the central server of the network and have it synchronized with their new phone.
M-PESA, as I was told by Asha at SCCC, is still in an internal testing phase and shall be activated for the public asap its functionality is proven. Now let’s wait and see how this fine service will boost the economy.