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Peter Ndegwa: Safaricom is ready to weather COVID-19 storm, but only when Kenyans are back on track

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Kenya has 270 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with its economic growth expected to halve to 3% this year.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, who took charge at April 1, 2020, has said that the company will be on track once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

According to Reuters report, Ndegwa is adamant that the telco will weather the storm after helping Kenyans get back on track.

“When Kenya gets back on track, our business should get back on track. We are in a good place to be able to weather this storm, but our business is linked to how the country comes out on the other side,” said CEO Peter Ndegwa.

The company expects a 5.5 billion shilling hit to its revenue from M-Pesa in the three months from mid-march after it adjusted prices because of the conronavirus crisis.

The foregone revenue, equating to 7.3% of the mobile money platform’s annual earnings, will be caused by a slash in charges on small transactions to facilitate cashless payments, in a move to contain COVID-19 pandemic.

Under an initial 90-day deal with the government, all charges for cash transfers of less than 1,000 shillings ($9.39) have been removed by all operators.

Ndegwa said that the M-Pesa business could benefit from increased usage as customers shun bank notes during the crisis.

“We are not factoring in any upside until we see how customers cope with this crisis,” he said.

Safaricom has experienced a surge in data traffic as people work from home and students turn to e-learning services.

The telco has doubled Internet speeds for its fibre customers – about 300,000 homes – and is accelerating installation of new fibre connections to meet growing demand, the CEO said.

Ndegwa, who was Diageo’s managing director for continental Europe before taking his new role, said the coronavirus crisis will present new opportunities in the data business, which Safaricom needs to pick up the slack from declining volumes in traditional mobile telephony.

“People are discovering they can work from home. Education and learning will change. Small businesses are going to learn they can digitise their operations and operate more smartly,” he said.

Kenya has 270 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with its economic growth expected to halve to 3% this year.