One of the challenges that M-PESA users experience is when one inadvertently sends money to the wrong M-PESA user. With an average of almost 400 transactions per second, chances are high that this will happen.

It had always been a problem since the early days of M-PESA, and it got worse when many people switched from feature phones with keypads to smartphones with a touch screen. It became increasingly easy to key in the wrong number and not even notice it.

Safaricom's Hakikisha service

Safaricom then created a simple solution for this problem.

Safaricom introduced the Hakikisha service which allowed one to confirm the name of the person they were sending money to, and offer an option to cancel. This was welcome, but it has one major flaw.

When you send money via M-PESA, you receive a USSD prompt with the name of the recipient, asking you to confirm that is the person you want to send money to. If the name is correct, you can just ignore the USSD or click cancel and the transaction will be executed. If the name is wrong, you need to reply with any character within 25 seconds to cancel the transaction.

While effective, this feature has one problem, many people quickly click the cancel button when they realize that they are sending money to the wrong recipient. When you see the wrong name, you want to cancel the transaction and you subconsciously click on cancel, instead of replying with any letter or number.

Equitel's approach

Equity Bank’s Equitel platform also faced a similar challenge.

Their solution was a little bit different. When you send money via Equitel, you get a USSD response with the name of the person you are sending money to. To complete the transaction, you have to respond with 1, or 2 to cancel.

This approach by Equity Bank is more effective because there are lower chances of sending money to the wrong recipient.

Unfortunately, USSD only offer the two options of Send and cancel. One cannot rename then to something else.

Unfortunately, it also adds one more step to the whole process. This is something Safaricom did not want to do. Adding another step to the M-PESA function would greatly impact the user experience. Yet, several M-PESA users have inadvertently sent money to the wrong recipients.

Given the choice between inconveniencing the majority and saving a very small minority, Safaricom opted to sacrifice the minority for the convenience of the majority.

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