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First Impressions From Using Safaricom’s M-Pesa 1Tap

Its been a few months since Safaricom started piloting their M-Pesa 1Tap offering in Kenya which I wrote about here. Safaricom’s M-Pesa 1Tap is an NFC-based ‘tap and go’ merchant payment solution that is available using NFC-enabled cards, wrist bands and badge (that you stick on the back of your mobile phone).

The thinking behind M-Pesa 1Tap is that Safaricom can simplify the process of making merchant payments for consumers in retail shopping scenarios which would enable them to make even deeper in-roads where financial transactions are concerned in Kenya. One just has to take a look at their own M-Pesa statements to realize just how well entrenched M-Pesa transactions are in their lifestyles given that pretty much everything in Kenya can be paid for using the mobile money service.

During the last few weeks, Safaricom launched M-Pesa 1Tap nationwide with various merchant partners like Shell at their petrol stations. I for one was fortunate enough to get an M-Pesa 1Tap NFC-enabled badge a couple of weeks ago when I briefly attended the inaugural TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa event at the Radisson Blu in Nairobi.

To be honest it was a remarkably busy week and I was at the event for only a reasonably short period if time but the perk of meeting my friends from Safaricom is that they hooked me up with M-Pesa 1Tap (thanks, Dennis!). The process of signing up was somewhat cumbersome in that it took multiple attempts to get the badge registered but once it was done all I needed to do is stick it to the back of my iPhone and we were good to go.

My first experience using M-Pesa 1Tap was last week at a Shell Petrol Station when I fueling up. Its the first place where I saw the M-Pesa 1Tap offering being visibly promoted as an alternative mode of payment. Naturally, being the technophile that I am I could not resist and asked the pump attendant fueling the car to ensure that I could pay using M-Pesa 1Tap, instead if the manual till number process that normally requires a number of steps. The pump attendant did not seem to be fully conversant with M-Pesa 1Tap so he asked a colleague who was more familiar with it to process my payment for me.

The process of payment required the pump attendant to enter the payment amount due into what looks like a boxy feature phone which approximates a credit or debit card PDQ(?). Once this was done, I was to ‘tap’ the badge to the back M-Pesa 1Tap PDQ and ‘voila’, payment made? Unfortunately, it was not that simple. We had to tap several times and even re-enter the transaction details after it timed out. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the rubberized cover on the M-Pesa 1Tap PDQ but after multiple attempts it finally worked. That was it. Nothing else required.

One thing I appreciated from my first experience using Safaricom’s M-Pesa 1Tap is that it provides for a somewhat seamless payment process whereby all you need to do is enter your PIN number into your phone as opposed to looking up the M-Pesa till number, making sure you enter it in properly, waiting for the confirmation of payment, giving the payment confirmation details (manually) to the other party, etc etc. It really is a simpler process! However, whether its my NFC badge or the M-Pesa 1Tap PDQ being used I hope that it can be more reliable?

Going forward, I am keen to see how this experience looks when one is using the M-Pesa Card or wrist band instead to see if those offer a more reliable experience when making a payment. The other opportunity I’d like to see is how it works in a more conventional retail experience like a supermarket where the PDQ is undoubtedly going to be more heavy duty in design I imagine? That being said, given how well M-Pesa has done in Kenya since inception, this is yet another iteration that extends its disruptive penetration into the marketplace. You can see the gallery showing the whole M-Pesa 1Tap experience as below:

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