KENYA – Safaricom, a communication company, has appointed the head of its financial services division, Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, to head the newly created joint venture with South Africa’s Vodacom Group that will run the lucrative M-Pesa platform 

Until March 2016, Lopokoyit was Safaricom’s head of department in charge of financial services (MPESA), a position he held for almost 5 years before he was picked to head m-commerce and MPESA services at Vodacom Tanzania. He later rejoined the telco as the head of financial services, a position he held until his most recent appointment. 

His new appointment is part of the process to establish a leadership team for the newly created joint venture between South Africa’s Vodacom Group and Safaricom. 

“To realize our ambition, the M-Pesa Africa Joint Venture will be steered by a team of five leaders consisting of the commercial director, finance director, technology director, head of compliance and risk and the chief of financial services, Safaricom,” the telco said in a statement. “This team will report directly to Sitoyo Lopokoiyit (Interim MD M-Pesa Africa).” 

Safaricom said the joint venture will allow the parties to consolidate M-Pesa platform development, synchronize more closely product road maps, and improve operational capabilities into a single, fully converged unit. 

“The joint venture will drive the next generation of the M-Pesa platform — an intelligent, cloud-based platform for the smartphone age,” Safaricom said. 

Safaricom and Vodacom — which operates in South Africa and other markets in the region including Tanzania — plan to grow the platform beyond Kenya. 

The two companies in April completed the acquisition of the M-Pesa brand from their affiliate Vodafone Group Plc in a KSh1.4 billion (US$13.23m) transaction. 

Vodacom and Vodafone own a combined 40 percent stake in the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm which pioneered the M-Pesa service in the local market. 

Previously, Safaricom would pay Vodafone billions of shillings in fees for the rights to use the M-Pesa brand. The UK multinational owned the platform’s intellectual property. 

The move to buy out the London-based firm will see Safaricom save on the fees besides gaining more autonomy to run the service in partnership with Vodacom. 

Safaricom booked a one-time gain of KSh3.3 billion (US$31.18m) in the year ended March in relation to the M-Pesa buyout. 

M-Pesa, which started as a person-to-person money transfer service in March 2007, recorded a 12.6 percent growth in revenue to KSh84.4 billion (US$797.58m) in the review period. 

The platform’s revenues could soon overtake voice to become the company’s largest sales item.