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API Management

Safaricom: Harnessing the power of APIs to transform lives in Africa

June 18, 2019
Calestor Kizito Magero

M-PESA API product development manager, Safaricom

Editors note: Today we hear from Calestor Kizito Magero, Safaricom’s API product development manager of M-PESA, the company’s mobile payment platform. Learn how Safaricom, the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya, uses Apigee to simplify how it integrates its mobile services with partners.

Safaricom holds the distinction of being the largest telecommunications services provider in Kenya, but we’re aiming for an even loftier goal: empowering Kenyans with tools for economic growth. From venture capital investments in local startups to our commitment to United Nations (UN) sustainability goals, we prioritize the mission of transforming lives in our country.

A key part of this mission is M-PESA, our mobile payment solution. M-PESA enables money transfers and lending, and empowers Kenyans to manage their finances by transforming their mobile phones into a personal bank branch. Partners can integrate with the service via APIs that are exposed via the Apigee API management platform.

Integrating with partners wasn’t always as fast and efficient as it is now, though. Our previous channel had proven tedious, expensive, and time consuming, and we dealt with a lot of customer complaints and dissatisfaction. We had to create separate network connections for each partner to maintain security for our customers.

We couldn’t develop APIs on the gateway layer, meaning that development had to be done on our core services. To do testing, we had to send requests manually to developers, which wasn’t feasible when we reached a scale of more than 100 integrations. We knew that the continued success of M-PESA hinged on finding a faster, easier, and more secure way to expose our APIs and get them integrated with partners’ offerings. 

A key reason we chose Google Cloud’s Apigee API Platform was the ability it provides to securely expose any API, whether external or internal. We also appreciated the platform’s configurability. With Apigee, it became easier to develop and deploy APIs from start to finish in just a few hours, along with necessary error handling and logs. Off-the-shelf tools like Apigee Trace and the platform‘s proxy building capability make API management very easy, and we value its ability to scale with us as the number of APIs we offer grows. Our implementation partner Abacus played a key role in evaluating Apigee and helping Safaricom implement the platform.

Deploying Apigee has enabled our partners to easily integrate our M-PESA mobile payment solution. This has opened up our ecosystem to 4,500 partners and counting, ranging from startups to large enterprises. We now feel confident in being able to privately and more securely expose our APIs, which now take as little as a week to develop and publish. We have also added a valuable commercial aspect to our digital strategy thanks to the monetization feature in Apigee, which is contributing 11% of our B2B and B2C revenue at the beginning of 2019.

We have also added a valuable commercial aspect to our digital strategy thanks to the monetization feature in Apigee, which is contributing 11% of our B2B and B2C revenue at the beginning of 2019.

 We have a very vibrant developer community across the country, and with the growth and adoption of M-PESA our customers need to easily integrate and automate payment processes. The API management platform has opened up an easy way for developers to create and embed payments into their solutions, with the sandbox offering a test area where they can experiment with different ways of handling payments.

This has created a buzz in the developer community, with many collaborative knowledge-sharing groups forming spontaneously. So far, we have on-boarded over 15,000 developers in our sandbox environment. We are exposing more than 80 APIs now and have over 15,000 apps currently in production or in the sandbox.

Success stories are bubbling up from our ecosystem about how easy it has been to integrate with M-PESA and automate payments since the Apigee deployment. Self-onboarding means that customers do not have to depend on Safaricom support engineers to get access to our APIs and documentation. We have also been able to implement self-testing and customer go-live very easily and more securely.

With Apigee’s help, Safaricom has gained a significant competitive edge in Africa by becoming the first mobile network operator in the region to expose APIs. We are planning to leverage Apigee capabilities to further enhance our offering by developing new API-based offerings in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. We are at the beginning of our API journey and we are excited by the potential that APIs unlocks to help us on our mission to transform lives through mobile communications.

To learn more about API management on Google Cloud, visit our Apigee page.

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