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Airtel And Telkom Are Slowly But Surely Gaining On Safaricom

The COVID19 pandemic and lockdown did not come with only bad news; the likes of Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya registered some good news.

Even though Safaricom controls over 65% of Kenya's mobile subscribers, research and statistics show that Airtel and Telkom gained percentage points on the near-monopolistic Safaricom.

Safaricom nearly fully dominates Kenya's mobile money scene with their mobile money service, M-Pesa, accounting for nearly 99 percent of mobile money transactions in Kenya. It is not further a surprise that they dominate the mobile data scene as well.

Mobile data make up 98.5 percent of Kenya’s internet market, and last year, it grew even more with the forced introduction of Covid-19 control measures, including working and schooling from home.


The market for the internet grew to 43.5 million subscribers in the quarter to September 2020, as reported by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA); both Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya gained on Safaricom, WITH Airtel Networks Limited and Telkom Kenya Limited gaining by 0.8 and 0.4 percentage points respectively. Owing to this, Airtel's market share rose to 26.8 percent while Telkom Limited rose to 5.4 percent.

The two are Safaricom's biggest rivals for Kenya and had looked into a merger last year, but this fell through as both telcos, due to the inclusive regulatory hiccups, decided to no longer pursue the completion.

Safaricom lost 1.2 percentage points in market share of mobile data subscriptions but is still the undisputed leader commanding 67.5 percent of subscribers. Airtel is up to 26.8 percent while Telkom Limited rose to 5.4 percent of the market share.

Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) highlighted that internet connections at home and office were rising. There was growth in internet usage with rising dependence on digital platforms for work, learning, healthcare, shopping, and entertainment.

In its report released in July 2020, Safaricom revealed that customers' headline market share had been steadily eroding from a high of 70 percent in FY17 to an estimated 65 percent in FY19.

According to the CA's statistics, also released in July 2020, the firm’s market share in mobile subscriptions stood at 64.8 percent, recording a 0.3 percentage points decline. Safaricom had 35,607,302 subscribers in March 2020, up from 35,335,107 in December 2019, recording a slow growth of 1.2 percent.

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