Equity Bank Seeks to Restore its Lost Glory | Applies for a Mobile Network Licence



Equity Bank’s shares have started rising steadily after it applied for a licence from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) for a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), which will guarantee it rights to share infrastructure with any operator to launch its own mobile telephone services. Equity is likely to use yuMobile’s infrastructure according to some industry sources.

Though today’s 0.79 increase from 31.75 to 32.0 doesn’t mean much, analysts say the firms shares are set to plummet  and even more if Equity Bank is granted the license. Equity Bank’s application is still with the National Intelligence Service (NIS) undergoing for scrutiny before the CCK decides whether to award the bank a telco licence or not.

Former President Mwai Kibaki (centre) Equity CEO James Mwangi and Safaricom's CEO Michael Joseph at the launch M-Kesho in 2010
Former President Mwai Kibaki (centre) Equity CEO James Mwangi and Safaricom’s CEO Michael Joseph at the launch M-Kesho in 2010

Before Safaricom’s popularity, Equity Bank used to be the king of financial services in the country and was the most innovative institution in the land. It had a branch in almost every shopping center. Then the launch of M-Pesa in 2007 just made things worse as instead of going to the bank, people began going to M-Pesa agents.

In 2010, Equity Bank decided to join hands with Safaricom to launch M-Kesho, a bank to M-Pesa money transfer service. This was brilliant. However, according to a new book, Money Real Quick, by Dr. Tonny Omwasa and Nicholas Sullivan, the service did not work long as rivalry between the two firms heated up. After the dead of M-Kesho Equity Bank has been left behind the mobile banking revolution and therefore it likely use this chance to power its own mobile banking services and if true pay back its old rivalry for mistreatment. It’s so likely that the bank believes that this new move will restore its lost glory.
The bank has branches and agents allover and the country and would easily turn them into its mobile money agents for both money transfer and saving and loans and insurance services just like its perceived rivalry Safaricom with its M-Pesa agens. It’s loyal customer base of over 8 million might be its first customers if the bank succeeds in rolling out its mobile services. The move might also be another to end Safaricom’s monopoly on both telco services and mobile money services in the country.

The move will also break the cord of Safaricom’s Lipa na M-Pesa which is taking over payments in almost every sector, from bus payments to restaurants and supermarkets which has a heating effect on Equity Banks BebaPay, which was initially launched as a transport payments card but with plans to be rolled-out to power transactions everywhere.