WeChat is fueling a giant ecosystem in China. It has 902 million users daily, 806 million monthly users for WeChat Pay in 25 countries. The giant social chat and payments platform also sees 205 million connected calls every day and 68 million videos are posted every day.
Even more, WeChat has 50 million active senior users and sees 38 billion messages sent every day and users sent 6.1 billion voice messages every day. The best way to describe it-WeChat is a phenomenon and sees nearly one billion users run their professional and private lives on it.
Popularly known as Weixin, WeChat was launched in 2011 by Naspers’-backed conglomerate Tencent and has now grown into a fully-fledged ecosystem offering chat, in-store payments for goods and services, food ordering and table reservation, fitness tracker and games.
WeChat Pay powered by TenPay allows users to scan their QR code to pay any single store in China. WeChat’s Quick Pay allows vendors to scan the QR Code shown by customers on the Quick Pay page to finish transactions quickly. Vendors creates different QR codes for different goods. After users scan these codes, they can see related product information and transaction guides on their phone.
WeChat also has In-App Web-based Payment allowing vendors push product messages to their followers via Official Account. With WeChat Pay enabled, their followers can purchase products on the shopping page.
WeChat’s In-App Payment allows vendors to integrate WeChat Pay SDK into their apps. When users make payment in other apps, WeChat will be authorized to process the payment. Once the transaction is done, the page will redirect to the other app.
WeChat Transfer allows teams to split bills together via a bill request to Group Chat and collects the money through transfers from the others, instantly. On the other hand, WeChat is like email in China and users use the WeChat Group Chat to discuss work, video-conference and transfer files at work.There’s a section for cross-border payments too.
Safaricom wants the same thing for itself for its mobile wallet and payment service M-PESA. For itself, Safaricom is a dwarf compared to Tencent. Despite its latest developments-open API to apps, Hakikisha, NFC, app and reduced wait time, compared to WeChat, M-PESA has no social feel or reach to it and will never have. WeChat gives its users direct and instant access to everyone and every businesses while M-PESA tried to create a database of dumb utility paybill numbers and stopped there.
WeChat and Alipay are the real players in mobile payments and M-PESA is following at a safer distance. Safaricom is looking for something that will make it the platform it yearns to become just like WeChat has done for Tencent.
Safaricom’s M-PESA is not a small movement. It has more than 26 million customers who make more than 10.5 million transactions every day. M-PESA has rolled out different innovations to its customers including the Lipa Na M-PESA cashless payment platform, M-Shwari, KCB M-PESA and recently M-TIBA and is now tied to Songa music streaming service, Sendy delivery services, Little taxi hailing cab and Masoko eCommerce platform.
Safaricom is also lacking games while WeChat offers an online gaming with the world’s most popular mobile games. It also reaches over 560 million users with its eSport online video gaming. WeChat is also into jobs and allows its users to post their CVs to companies on its platform. WeChat is an entire ecosystem.
Though an entire WeChat clone as we speak. Safaricom’s new Bonga service will allow users share messages as well as money.
“This is our new messaging platform with deep integration to M-Pesa,” said the firm. “Bonga enables you to chat with friends, send, receive and also request for money, all within one screen.”
According to Safaricom, Bonga Sasa will facilitate peer to peer messaging and money transfer while Bonga Baraza will allow cause driven money transfer like it is in normal harambees in Kenya while Bonga Biashara will be a business focused chat and money transfer platform all integrated heavily on M-PESA.
To grow M-PESA’s use case, Bonga will allow user generated content such as music, art, among others in Kenya and in Vodafone’s markets in Africa, Asia and Europe. Bonga is a continuation of what Safaricom did with its Big Box, an Android TV box. Little, an Uber competitor and Sendy, a courier firm which has since pivoted from peer-to-peer services to B2B, Eneza Education and M-Survey and M-Tiba, a mobile health wallet and M-Kopa, a fintech firm lending solar systems to off-grid communities in Kenya and Masoko its Amazon clone.
Only this time, Bonga is social. The young generation is social and mobile and that’s where the money is too. Millenials are not afraid to spend money and they also have time to connect with friends and family and business on the go. They message or call via data hence the need for Safaricom 4G.
“We don’t want to become a company for everything, we want to become a platform for everything. And in fact we’ve even moved on from using the word platform. We now use the word raft because platform is something which sits still. A raft is something which moves. And the world that we’re in today is moving at a particularly rapid pace,” Collymore told Business Daily. “So we want to be the raft that people can climb onto to get them where they want to go. We have stopped thinking about mobile phone companies being our competitors.We don’t want to think of ourselves as a telecommunications company. In fact pretty much every Friday afternoon I interview incomers to the company and we hardly get any with telecommunications background now. They’re coming from all sorts of other backgrounds.”
To be Tencent, Safaricom needs its own WeChat and Bonga fits the description. Messenger is yearning to be the world’s WeChat too but Facebook’s recent poor reputation with personal user data might affect its growth.