We are almost at the end of the first leg of our world tour, which is southern of Africa. From here we head to Southern America. If you are traveling for a long time, what do you do with your mobile line? Do you disconnect it, throw it away and plan to get another line when you return home? We have no idea how much life can depend on your mobile line in other countries but we can tell you how important that line is for a Kenyan, even when you are miles away from home.
This is because a mobile line is basically our money management tool and information center. We receive bills, text from banks, and other important information on this small piece of card. We pay for everything using our mobile lines.
M-PESA is KING in Kenya.
You know or must have heard of M-PESA? If this is your first encounter with the word M-PESA click here for more. M-PESA is KING in Kenya. Besides us, many other people will tell you as much. Articles have been published by many regarding M-PESA. One Alexander Oswald said this on his TEDx talk in Vienna.
As Kenyans traveling the world and with two teenagers back in Kenya, we have to pay bills and send money every month. You must wonder how we do this from the road, or you may have some experience with it. From Kenya we have now traveled through nine (9) countries with different telephone service providers, good and poor connectivity depending on which part of the country we are in. We also have limited access to internet as in most countries we haven’t had local SIM cards which could help with data on the road. So, we basically wait till evening and look for accommodation with WiFi.
Our options for sending money and paying bills are: –
- Bank transfer – everyone must have a bank account or a mobile number.
- M-PESA transfer – our lines must remain active throughout our travel.
THE INTRICATE WEB OF MONEY MANAGEMENT.
We had no idea how complicated this is going to be when we left home. This is what we are talking about.
1.Our daughter must have a national identity card, MPESA or bank account!
Our daughter who is 18 going 19 had just cleared her year 12 two weeks before we left. She was going to be applying for her national identity card, get an MPESA account, PIN and get a bank account after we had left. Three months later, she has only managed to get the national identity card and no success with MPESA and bank account. She lives on her own and has to basically manage her own life and money. Before she got her national identity card, we had to always send money to other people to withdraw it on her behalf and get it to her. They too, have to look for her as they can not M-PESA her. That means time and money to meet for this handover. Then she got her ID and could receive cash on her line and withdraw but not send to anyone or pay bills. Payment of bills still remains our responsibility. That takes us to the next complication.
2. Our lines must be active to be able to use MPESA services!
If we want to use M-PESA, whether using the SIM toolkit or the App, our lines must remain active.
We have to pay bills such as water, electricity etc. We receive these bills through texts on our mobile phones that we had earlier registered with the utility service providers. All these bills can only be paid through M-PESA or bank transfer. For the bank transfer, you pay directly to the Pay Bill number, which again, is M-PESA integrated into the bank App. For either of the two (MPESA and Bank payment), our lines have to remain active. You might wonder why?
3. Why our lines MUST remain active!
If we are setting up beneficiaries on the online banking platform, we require an OTP (One Time Password) which is only sent to your registered mobile number.
When we use our Visa cards, we receive a text on our lines which is a form of security. Incase our cards are lost and used by someone else, we will get a text and can quickly get them blocked. We hate to imagine what would happen if we lost our cards and cannot receive texts on usage as this is the first level of notification.
If we need to receive the bills, we must have our lines active.
If we want to transfer money from the bank to a mobile number, our lines must be active.
To keep a line active, if it is on pre-paid plan, you have to keep loading airtime to ensure it remains active. You will need the line active to be able to buy airtime from your M-PESA.
For a line that is on post paid plan, the line will remain active but if you don’t pay your monthly bills (which payment is through M-PESA), some services will not be accessible. Services such as mobile banking on USSD.
WHAT HAS BEEN OUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR!
Using M-PESA worked perfectly well in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar on both the App and the SIM toolkit. From Malawi down south we mostly used the bank App to get money directly from the bank and send it to an MPESA account. We had no signal in Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia .
It is until we reached South Africa that we had challenges using both the App and the SIM tool kit. We could receive the Vodacom signal. We could also receive text but could not use the M-PESA services. We sort help from a friend back home and were informed that for us to be able to use the services, we have to activate roaming. 😱 our faces when we think roaming charges. We activated roaming and are now happily using M-PESA 🤩
IS AFRICA THE END OF M-PESA JOURNEY WITH US?
There is only one way to to find out, follow us to our next destination ANTARCTICA