Google Now Accepts Kenyan Mobile Money M-Pesa, Is Ecocash Next?

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar

Kenya’s mobile money service M-Pesa (Kenyan Ecocash for the uninitiated) can now be used to pay for apps, and games on Google’s Play Store.

This is great news as the lack of payment options has remained one of the barriers for Africans looking to buy goods and services online as the e-commerce stores usually only accept international cards

This is also great news because it enables Kenyans to enjoy high-quality paid apps without having to resort to piracy. We are so used to piracy in Africa we never actually acknowledge that the services we are enjoying without paying for are at times a lifetime of work for developers and creators alike.

Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day…

Is Ecocash next?

I really hope that Ecocash is next but Google has not publicly indicated their plans or target markets going forward.

It’s also really difficult to predict if Ecocash (Zim’s major mobile money platform) will strike a deal with Google anytime soon. Kenya has a population of about 48.5 million compared to Zim’s 16.15 million. This 66% difference means Kenya is a major target when it comes to the spread of such technologies. The number of M-Pesa users stands at about 27.8 million which is still far more than our population and an even larger gap compared to the 6 million Ecocash subscribers.

The above stats show why the Kenyan market is attractive to players such as Google. At the end of the day, big players (i.e. Google in this case) are looking for the best markets to grow and increase revenue and Zim may not be high on their priority list because of that.

The interoperability ultimatum that was given to the Mobile Network Operators could be another stumbling block. The government ordered all networks to make all their payment platforms work together seamlessly and until this issue is resolved Google may not make a deal with Ecocash individually when there’s an opportunity to strike a deal with all operators under one service.

Let’s see how it goes

Hopefully, I’m wrong and the payment options expand and include Ecocash soon. What do you think about Google’s M-Pesa partnership? If a similar option was available here would you stop pirating apps? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section…


  1. Wellington

    Ecocash will still experience the same foreign currency challenges that the Ecocash MasterCard debit card faced. I don’t see ecocash coming on board in the near future.

  2. Kami

    If you look at the current difficulties in remitting funds out of Zimbabwe, the answer will be a straight, NOT ANYTIME SOON. Secondly, Kenya is perceived as a tech hub with huge growth potential compared to Zim which puts us way down on Google priorities.

  3. Anonymous

    Econet will come on board. Think of it as the Steward Banks Visa prepaid card. Thats the only solution EcoCash will do.

  4. @RMalunda

    presumably through asking us to deposit hard cash US dollars yes not directly. its a diferent situation altogether. however, let’s remain hopeful

  5. chris hanyane

    M-Pesa’s inclusive approach, i.e. they have their Node.js API on github, puts them way above econet’s closed door policy (at least there is a perception that it has a closed door policy). Having a API on github gives the perception that M-Pesa is serous about security since you have put your software into the public space. Econet’s closed door policy is also complicated by the allegation that it is not very transparent when negotiating interfacing solutions with developers. Their history of kicking off a insurance deal after they had figured out how it works just to develop theirs is also a shaky practice. Having said that, they are in it for money and thus they can not be faulted for trying to make maximum profits. But at times. short term gains come to haunt you when you try to scale higher grounds. In Zim they are at the top of the food chain but outside there, they might struggle to shake off some of the moves that put them at the top in Zim.