It is either that Lipa na M-PESA ad is off the mark or Lipa na M-PESA itself is off the mark. Me thinks it’s both. The ad shows a guy (hawker), selling his goods under a tree. He has tens of customers each demanding “change” until he runs mad and decides to climb the tree.
When you see this hawker, what do you think of him? Personally he appears as an informal business man who places his goods wherever he gets space. He doesn’t have a business registration certificate so if by any case he has a business name then the name is not recognized by the government or local municipal council. He appears to me as the many businesses that pay operations fees to municipal tax collectors either on a weekly or daily basis but not on annual license fees. He doesn’t even appear to be having a business PIN.
There is nothing bad about him. Most of business men and women operate without registering their business units. Lipa na M-PESA, since it allows payment from as little as 10 shillings, is basically meant to target such business men and women. The problem, however, is that it requires one to have a formally registered business before opening an account on Lipa na M-PESA.
Here are the basic requirements before you can open a Lipa na MPESA account:
What do I require to sign up for LIPA NA M-PESA account?
You will need to fill a LIPA NA M-PESA application forms available from any Safaricom authorized dealers, M-PESA agents, Safaricom Retail Shop or Kopo Kopo and attach copies the following documents:
- Business Registration documents from Company Registrar or County Government business permits
- PIN number
- ID number of the Business Owner(s)
- M-PESA and M-Shwari Registered Mobile number
After I watched the ad for a few days, I advised a friend who operates a business that requires sales people selling products from far off places from her to go collect the registration documents from Safaricom. After she collected the forms we discovered that she could not use the Lipa na M-PESA as she had not registered her business formally. Well, the ad led me into misleading a friend who ended up wasting her time to collect irrelevant documents.
So I thought to myself, isn’t Safaricom aware that they are promoting their Lipa na M-PESA platform to informal businesses by that ad? If so, why aren’t they allowing such informal businesses to use the platform?
Safaricom should know that thousands upon thousands of small scale business men and women in the country do not care to register their businesses. Businesses ranging from mama mboga, estate shop owners, boda boda riders, jua kali artisans, a wide range of fundis e.g. fundi wa viatu, to local hotels do not have formally registered businesses yet would appreciate the services offered by Lipa na M-PESA.
In an age where opening a bank account does not require one to produce any documents or physically visit a bank branch as has been enabled by M-Benki, I do not see any logic for Safaricom’s decision to require whoever wants to operate a Lipa na M-PESA number to have a business registration certificate. What Safaricom (and Kopokopo) should do instead, is to give anyone who requests for the account the go ahead to operate it but they must set a deposit amount at account opening and a minimum monthly remittance amount calculated on current sales to the Lipa na M-PESA account. If the minimum remittance amount is not reached then a penalty fee is debited on the account so that only serious business men and women can apply for the Lipa na M-PESA product.
Or if Safaricom is adamant that only formally registered businesses are allowed to use Lipa na M-PESA then they should change the ad and use a business unit that portrays the desired formality e.g. a supermarket, someone operating a stall in town, etc etc and they should ensure that the registration certificates are well displayed during the ad.
But it is important to reiterate that there doesn’t seem to be any need for someone to first have a formally registered businesses before he/she can be allowed to use Lipa na M-PESA.