At first we all thought it was other phone companies, the Celtels, Kencells, and Airtels of this world.
When that competition was severely curtailed, we realized their thinking was on another level.
Then we thought it was perhaps the banks – especially after they launched MPesa. Because the banks almost all fought it, from BBK to Equity to virtually all the top line banks. We didn’t pay enough attention to what Michael Joseph said in response to them, “You can’t fight it, you can only join it”. Sure enough, after a brief if intense struggle, virtually all top banks are now synched with Safaricom’s money systems.
So if it was not the other phone companies, nor the banks, that Safaricom had in its sights, who then was it? Who is this then that this company which is growing in leaps in bounds, has in its cross hairs.
The secret is at last, out. It’s the Central Bank of Kenya.
“Our competition is money,” said Bob Collymore the other day when he went full out to popularize their new service Lipa na Safaricom. He told banks not to worry. They are small fry. He wants the motherload.
Safaricom via its systems like MPesa and MShwari is now issuing “currency” that is as good as money. It is printing “virtual money” such that if you and I have this virtual money in our phones, we can pay, buy, eat, travel, drink, get a kilo of meat, go to hospital, tithe, and order local porn CDs. We can do the works.
Safaricom’s new virtually printed money is not as good as cash. You know the good old cash that is printed by CBK via their well compensated Thika Road-based supplier, De La Rue? It’s better.
And safer, to carry, and use.
What is to stop Safaricom from becoming the new issuer of tender over CBK? It has in its power the ability – even if it claims to lack the reason – to increase or decrease the issue of currency in the market.
If Bob Collymore is not yet a member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), they had better make him one. Lest the role that he, ipso facto, plays is realized, intuitively if nothing else, by the market.
Or worse, himself, that is assuming he doesn’t realize it yet. And once the lion realizes its own strength, what do you expect it to do with it, dig for vegetables? The study of man and beast suggests otherwise.
As that old African story we were all raised on, on the danger of nurturing a dangerous pet, counsels, “Small leopard grows into big leopard, and big leopard kills.”
It’s time to split up Safaricom using anti-trust laws. For once they are through with CBK, who will they go for next? What is bigger than CBK? Don’t be surprised if the map of Kenya soon turns all-familiar green.