Bonga by Alpha is a Messaging platform with integrated Mpesa

So we came across information about what Safaricom’s innovation arm has been working on. Well, can’t quite say whether this is the only thing they are working on, but this is going to be their first product, Bonga Sasa, which is a messaging platform that integrates Mpesa in a way that hasn’t been done yet.

What happens is that it’s a standalone light app that is at the moment in closed Alpha, but I have seen it in action. Basic messaging approach where if you install it you will see all your contacts on it, and those not on it right below them. Same approach as Telegram.

Difference is that if you wish in the middle of a conversation to send money or request for money, you do it like part of the chat, no leaving the app. It has a dedicated Mpesa button, right next to the chat bar that if tapped can allow you send or request for money, should you send money or respond to a money request, you will only need to input your Mpesa pin from within the app and you get a confirmation message in-chat. What do you think?


What are the other features? I’m seeing an attach icon-so that means i’ll be able to send files?

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It’s a cool gimmick but it’s just that, a gimmick.

IMO it would have made more sense to partner up with an established chat app like Whatsapp and integrate mpesa payments into that platform.


I’ve just seen that now, but what I was told is that the app wants to address the basics first before tackling other things, so attaching files may not be there at the moment.

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It’s cool… But, like @mister_roboto said, they should have worked with other established developers like Facebook to integrate such feature in WhatsApp…like the way Indian version of WhatsApp works or better. Introducing new chat app should be the last thing safaricom does… Especially with the imminent launch of RCS messaging service by Google


Throw everything on the wall, see what sticks.


I second you. Alternatively, they can extend such features on the MySafaricomApp. Some of us are very paranoid about adding more apps on our phones especially from the same company.

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Analysts have been downgrading Safaricom’s stock for a few weeks now citing that the company may have reached market saturation.

They are definitely looking for the next big thing eagerly.


The average user downloads ZERO (0) apps per month - Google Firebase YouTube Channel, So there is reason #1 for this apps potential failure.

Primary advantage is eliminating the ‘Hakikisha’ issue. But a dedicated app to send money ontop of the USSD tool kit that works FOR FREE/WITHOUT DATA? Why would someone download that? Masoko couldn’t even zero rate their own site to give it an advantage so why would this chat app be any different? One buys bundles so they can send money more ‘conveniently?’ Spend money to spend even more money? SMH

This would have been ideal. Zero extra apps to download. Zero learning curve. But we’re talking about safcon, the same people who launched a cab app to compete with Uber instead of simply working with them to improve the uber experience - or better yet, focus on stabilizing existing services before wasting money on new ones.

Here’s why they wouldn’t integrate with other users (unless maybe their approach fails completely):

  1. They are safcon so profit over people is their approach
  2. Their ‘Data Driven Approach’ doesn’t work as well when they don’t have access to your contacts. They tried with Songa and people here complained. With this app, they can ‘justify’ their need to access and use that to market services to you.

Whatsapp was rumored to start ads in your chat history (scroll between chats and see an ad for Samsung S9+ between your chat with Susan and James). Having a chat app that could potentially access your microphone means you could start seeing ‘tailored ads’ depending on your MPESA History.

This also opens another avenue for the government to ask for access to their chat app which would be an OTT service. KRA would love to access peoples MPESA history and this is one way to do it.

Safcon has relied on poaching to try make its products succeed - Blaze, Masoko - with meeeh to crash and burn results. Whatsapp has admitted to having 55 employees, 32 of them engineers so who would they poach this time round? WhatsApp CEO quit over alleged privacy concerns so I doubt he would want to work with a profit first outfit like Safcon even on advisory basis.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits over privacy disagreements with Facebook - According to the Washington Post, which spoke to “people familiar with internal discussions” over Koum’s departure, there were tensions with Facebook over WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, which ensures that messages can’t be intercepted and read by anyone outside of the conversation, including by WhatsApp or Facebook. WhatsApp executives believed that Facebook’s desire to make it easier for businesses to use its tools would require weakening some of the encryption.

Airtel, Telkom & Equitel should approach WhatsApp and work with them to integrate payments directly. Equity has an advantage that it can test direct bank integration and if this works their competitors will follow suite. Let everyone move in 1 direction and leave safcon trying (and mostly failing) to have thing run their way. They’ll be more open to collaboration when they lose market share or generate enough negative sentiment that affects their appeal to investors

In short: Citi is worried that Safaricom has reached its peak and there’s no room left for growth — making it a bad choice for investors

Seeing competitors profit from industry collaboration and increased user satisfaction with their telcos (not safcon) means higher user spend which would raise the competitors profiles. Where one rises, others fall.

Google has repeatedly failed in their attempt at messaging so they may not be the best example right now. But it goes to your point in showing how difficult this is to achieve. E-Commerce is simpler and safcon failed at that, so tackling such a global issue is the last thing they should be focusing on. They forget that majority are only there because of MPESA and when that changes (yes, when) they won’t survive.

To summarize their entire approach to business since Michael Joseph left:

Safcon likes poaching and ‘borrowing’ ideas from others so here is one:

To succeed in Africa, Innovate around cost. Cost is the #1 deciding factor in Africa.

Why buy Volvo trucks when you can buy Chinese ones at 1/4 of the price and they do the same work? Why get Siemens when you could get Huawei and accomplish the same goal? How many permanent safcon products can you name which innovated around cost - putting people ahead of profit - since Michael Joseph left? Are these products accessible to everyone? How many of them were innovated by Safcon or were they just ‘borrowed’ from other people?

To innovate around cost, adopt 'First Principles Methodology


  1. Put People over Profit
  2. Innovate Around Costs
  3. Adopt First Principles approach to problem solving

They embrace this and keep doing it, and their competition will never be able to reach them.


Bliss :ok_hand::ok_hand::ok_hand::ok_hand: Tres bien!

So I went to they want too much info just to download the app. Anyways I am curious to read their Terms of service, I click on the link and no terms of service.

Why is there an accept tos button but no tos. It’s like, “Just accept this blank cheque, I’ll collect your head later.”




Site looks like it was cobbled up in a hurry. I mean, they could have even used a site like Terms of Service Generator and mixed it with the traditional Safcon terms.

Safcon Wanaweza na laziness… #ProfitOverPeople

I think safaricom should link all their apps into one super my safaricom app this way they might get somewhere eg an app with
-My safaricom app
and this bonga sasa
then kenyanice it like we chat for china
what they are doing at the moment is throwing ugali at the wall to see if it sticks.


There are different teams for most of these. Although, M-Ledger and MySafaricom do not need to exist separately.


I think it is a good idea. Practical? Not sure. The Safaricom App is not complete in functions and Songa is yet to catch on in the market. The Mtap thing is not working as it should etc etc. The Safaricom App is necessary and should be there. Songa was good but not localized enough. I can’t find Mike Rua in there. Now this one is a long shot. Like @BoazKE said, they are throwing everything out there to see what sticks. Eventually maybe something will come along that rivals Mpesa. At this point it would be easier for them to open an innovation campus and work on ideas as part of R&D. At least that way they can fail with decorum and away from the public eye.

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Bonga is in development by the Alpha team that’s known by the public as Safaricom Innovation, they do not operate from the same location as other Safaricom people but from the Lenana road address.
They have quite a vision for Bonga as you will see here.

But they want to get the bare minimums working and accepted. See excerpt from Techcrunch article linked above.

This week Safaricom will offer Bonga to a test group of 600 users, before updating the product, allowing the initial group to refer it to friends, and then extending the platform in three phases.

Bonga Sasa will facilitate messaging and money transfer between individuals, “enabling users to send or receive money while conversing with each other,” according to a Safaricom release. For example, through Bonga Sasa a parent can send money to the child without having to leave the platform to access another money transfer tool.

Bonga Baraza, expected in mid-2018, will allow users to collect money for purpose driven events, including Kenya’s harambee collective fundraising drives.

Bonga Biashara will build on this use of social networks for commerce. Digitizing Kenya’s extensive informal trading commerce is at play here. Alpha’s research found roughly “2.5 million people doing side-hustles with a smartphone in Kenya” and 12.5 million total running small businesses on smart and USSD devices, according to Gitau.

Bonga will channel Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, PayPal, and eBay in one platform. Users will be able to create business profiles parallel to their personal social media profiles and M-Pesa accounts and sell online. Bonga will also include space for Kenya’s creative class to upload, shape, and distribute artistic products and content.

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Actually it’s possible to combine the apps,my safaricom actually had the masoko tucked below it then they removed it, why are you talking about songa in the past tense has it failed.




After spotify started logging me out almost every day I got mad and tried to install Songa. The app was in play store but every time I tried to install it there was an error (not carrier thing but play store error). All other apps were installing apart from Songa. I ended up downloading Deezer and to my luck they had even lowered subscription fees (its now 500, not 1k). The only thing I miss from spotify is music discovery feature, it’s really good in Spotify than any other app. Deezer on the other hand has all music I want, I dont need to sideload it, and its cheaper.

I have checked it now and am able to download it from play store without an error. Lemme see if it can outdo Deezer.

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