When Vodafone and a team of mobile developers successfully launched the M-Pesa payments and money transfer system across Kenya in 2007, this African nation became a leader in the field of financial technology. M-Pesa has extended beyond Africa to India and even Eastern Europe, and this has prompted tech startups in Kenya to develop competing solutions; such is the case with JamboPay, a company that has emerged as a serious rival to PayPal in Africa.
JamboPay was founded in 2009 by Danson Muchemi, who was 25 years old and attending Kenyatta University at that time. In a 2015 interview with Forbes, Muchemi explained that his entrepreneurial dreams started when he was a boy growing up in Nyandarua County; his parents gifted him with rabbits that quickly reproduced, thus prompting him to sell bunnies as fast as he could while still being able to generate good profits. His JamboPay idea originated from frustration at not being able to install a reliable payments solution for an e-commerce website he was working on. Operating from a Nairobi internet café, Muchemi and a partner burned through $1,000 in 30 days to get JamboPay up and running. By late 2017, JamboPay was already collecting national innovation awards in the field of financial technology, and the company had acquired lucrative contracts with the Nairobi municipal government as well as with thousands of businesses in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
In essence, JamboPay serves as an electronic payments processing platform that can handle payments, remittances and transfers from a variety of sources, including the popular M-Pesa digital wallet, MasterCard, Visa, Airtel Money, and others. In Kenya alone, JamboPay has been contracted by more than 10,000 merchants, many of them using the platform to accept credit and debit card payments without having to install legacy terminals.
Since 2014, JamboPay has been the primary financial entity handling digital payments for Nairobi County services such as business permits, billboard space, parking fees, and some taxes. As its contract with the county matures, officials have considered using JamboPay to handle all their incoming payments.
Although JamboPay has enjoyed the fruits of several achievements over the years, not everything has been smooth sailing. In recent months, drivers who park their vehicles in the busy districts of Nairobi have been surprised to find their wheels clamped and a parking fine imposed even after making the required payment through JamboPay.
CEO Muchemi has explained that the aforementioned problem emanated with poor wireless internet connectivity while critics stated that a network saturation issue was to blame. While Nairobi City Hall is not considering replacing JamboPay, officials have mentioned the possibility of contracting a second platform to expand payment capacity and spark more financial technology competition in this bustling metropolis.