Yesterday, Safaricom customers were greeted with the news that they should prepare themselves for an M-Pesa service shutdown over the coming weekend, on April 18 and 19. Engineers will be handling a critical part of the two-year project of moving its servers from Germany to Kenya.

Since its inception in 2005, the mobile money service has had its servers hosted in the European country.

While speaking at a press conference in Nairobi, the company’s financial services general manager, Betty Mwangi, said that having the server system located in Kenya is intended to bring faster and more efficient service delivery.

Faster Service and More Products

In addition, a new system is planned to accompany the change of server location. This will come with added features to enable smoother incorporation of additional services. Apparently, the new system dubbed G2 (second generation) will make it possible for the addition of more business-to-business and business-to-customer products.

Mwangi said:

“More innovators can now come and do business with us because unlike the old system which is rigid in terms of design, this one is more flexible,”

The final changeover will take place in the next three to six months.

Betty Mwangi

Weakness of Centralized System

The new move, however, is going to come at a cost to convenience for the over 21 million customers around the East African country. M-Pesa and other related services will be unavailable over the weekend, as the critical part of the changeover will be actualized during those two days.

Sending and receiving money, making transfers from bank accounts, paying utility bills and making purchases through the M-Pesa service will all be unavailable.

Also affected will be the Bitcoin-to-M-Pesa services by exchanges such BitPesa and TagPesa.

Already major entities that rely on the service to receive payments, such as the country’s main power supply company, have sent out messages to their customers to inform them of the unavailability of the mobile payment service over the weekend.

Mpesa is a mobile money service offered by Safaricom, the largest telecommunication company in Kenya, and arguably one of the largest corporate entities in East Africa. Mpesa is the most successful mobile money service story anywhere in the world.

This development has, however, brought to the fore one of its major weaknesses — it is a centralized system that can be shut down at any time.

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