Safaricom unlocks the potential of mobile technology through Shared Value
This month, we connect with Kenyan mobile network operator, Safaricom; one of SVAI’s founding members. We talk to Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Stephen Chege, about the mobile money pioneer’s Shared Value journey, its contributions to sustainable living throughout Kenya and what lies ahead in 2021.
About Safaricom: Safaricom develops products and services that transform the lives of Kenyans in communications, education, health, commerce, agriculture and mobile money, contributing to sustainable living throughout Kenya.
Q: Looking back on Safaricom’s Shared Value Journey, what are your most memorable milestones?
I would say that Safaricom has been on the Shared Value journey since our inception and it has become an integral part of how we do business. Through out this period, we have constantly re-evaluated our business to look into how we can leverage technology to address the challenges that face our society.
To this end, we have been working with various partners on business solutions that address social challenges under healthcare, education, agriculture and clean energy. In 2017, we launched DigiFarm, which is an integrated mobile platform that offers farmers convenient, one-stop access to a variety of services including discounted inputs and advice on input use, financing, and information on crops and animals. The platform also improves collection of agricultural data by registering farmers and allowing them to key in information such as the size of their farms and nature of farming activities.
Agriculture plays an important role in the lives of many Kenyans. Long known as the “backbone” of Kenya’s economy, it contributes close to 25% of the country’s GDP. About 80% of the population derives all or part of its livelihood from farming, yet it is estimated that 65% of farmers earn less than KES 125 (US$ 1.17) a day. Despite this significance, a number of challenges exist, ranging from knowledge gaps, lack of access to high quality inputs, affordable credit and insurance, and poor access to market (an estimated 68% of produce value goes to middlemen, and 28% of produce perishes before getting to the market).
DigiFarm seeks to address these challenges and, in doing so, enhances the returns for smallholder farmers as well as improve the food security situation in Kenya. Through its partnership with iProcure, Safaricom is able to guarantee access to high quality inputs and is working with FarmDrive to provide affordable credit. Another partner, Arifu, comes in to provide farmers with access to relevant extension information.
Since its launch in 2017, DigiFarm has grown exponentially with over 1.4 million farmers registered on the platform and over half a billion worth of farming inputs redeemed from various depots across the 11 counties in Kenya where DigiFarm has been set up.
We expected that through Safaricom’s partnerships with county governments, DigiFarm will be able to reach an estimated market of 20 million farmers across the country. In the long term, we target to transform smallholder farming in Kenya into thriving agribusinesses that will not only provide stable livelihoods to farmers, but also address the food insecurity situation in Kenya.
Partnerships continue to be an important part of how we deliver on Shared Value. In 2016, we partnered with Pharm Access in launching M-Tiba –a health payment solution with an e-wallet, which enables the users to save towards healthcare expenses from as little as Ksh.10.
We leveraged on the unprecedented rise of mobile phone penetration and mobile money in Kenya to radically transform healthcare. M-Tiba is proving that it is possible to reach people who so far have remained off the radar. M-Tiba is bringing improved care to slum dwellers and rural populations and has the potential to make healthcare truly inclusive. Currently, M-Tiba is providing access to healthcare to over 5 million users and has injected over Ksh. 1 billion into the healthcare ecosystem since launch.
Mobile technology also holds great potential in providing access to quality education and information especially to the marginalized segments of our society. We continue to explore opportunities for expanding access to learning content through platforms and connectivity for learning institutions. In 2014, we partnered with Eneza Education to launch Shupavu 291, which enables students to take quizzes, search subjects and topics to study as well as access of Wikipedia summaries without requiring any internet connection. With the service, teachers and parents can check reports on individual student performance and school performance via SMS. All this is just at a flat rate of Ksh 30 for unlimited usage of the platform per month. To date, over 5 million learners have used the platform to prepare for their final year exams.
Q: We are at the start of a decade of action. What can we expect from Safaricom in 2021?
In 2016, we started our journey of integrating the Sustainable Development Goals with our business strategy. We took a top down bottom up co-creation approach through which we were able to identify nine of the 17 SDGs that are material to our business. With the integration SDGs, we saw an exciting opportunity to drive sustainability into the core of our business, not only for the business value it would create but for the benefit to the society as well.
As we embark on our new five-year strategy and our ambition to be a purpose-led technology company, SDGs will play a key role in how we deliver to our customers and the Kenyan society at large. We remain committed to continue working with our partners and stakeholders in developing solutions to the challenges that face our society, and even more so as we embark on building back from the ravages of COVID crisis.
One of our key focus areas going forward will be supporting SMEs that have been the hardest hit by the COVID crisis. In Kenya, it is estimated that small and medium size enterprises contribute up to 80% of all employment and account for as much as 40%of all economic activity. We aspire to be a partner of choice for small businesses in enabling them grow and thrive by providing relevant financial services and connectivity solutions.
Q: How do you think the concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV) will influence business in Africa going forward?
Africa still grapples with many challenges, from high levels of youth unemployment, food insecurity to low levels of access to quality education and healthcare. These challenges have in the past been viewed as by business as threats to profit. Going forward, this has to change whereby these challenges are seen as opportunities for making the world a better place – to impact the society positively and increase profit.
This is where the Shared Value concept will be key. It has presented businesses with a model that delivers on tangible impacts on the society while at the same time delivering growth.
However, for this to happen a radical shift will be required from the traditional mindsets of business as usual and just earning profits, to a long-term vision and a focus on creating shared value. A different approach will be required where the needs of the society are placed at the core of the business and not on the fringe of its operations. This approach will help business unlock the next frontiers of growth, increasing their revenues impact in their communities.
In addition, while business commitment on the SDGs in Africa has been commendable, more needs to be done to meet the aspirations set out under the various SDGs. Safaricom’s response to addressing societal needs has been through the integration of nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its core business strategy, including goals on Health (SDG3), Education (SDG4), Clean Energy (SDG7), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG8) and others.
Going forward we will continue to engage in shared value partnerships aimed at developing solutions to meet the needs of our customers in areas such as connectivity, healthcare and financial services.
 Kenya has 47 Counties.