NAIROBI –Mobile money use in Kenya defied higher taxes to surge by 343 billion shillings (R47bn) in 2018, according to Central Bank of Kenya data released on Monday. 

The total transactions stood at 39.4 billion dollars in 2018, up from 36 billion dollars in 2017, an indication of the importance of the service in the lives of Kenyans, said the central bank. 

The government, in a bid to shore up its revenue, raised excise duty on mobile money services from 10 percent to 12 percent in July and later in September increased the rate further to 20 percent. 

There were fears that the new taxes would affect the usage of mobile money, but the new data points to a surge in use of mobile money in the last quarter, especially in December, where transactions stood at a new high of 3.64 billion dollars. 

December is usually characterized by animated spending, with Kenyans using the service to send money to their loved ones, shop and pay bills, among others. 

The number of people employed as agents by the three mobile money service providers in the east African nation, namely Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom, surged considerably in 2018, peaking at 205,745, up from 182,472 in December 2017. Similarly, mobile money subscribers hit 47.7 million at the end of 2018, up from 37.4 million at the end of 2017. 

XINHUA