This entry is triggered, by my having to spend an unproductive hour this morning queuing to pay an electricity bill to the Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC). On most days, the halls at KPLC (and at bank halls and post offices in some remote towns where KPLC has no offices) are choke-full of thousands of individuals lining up to pay electricity bills in cash.
The Company needs new thinking and new ways of enabling payment for this basic service. Imagine if you could only pay for your cell phone airtime at a Safaricom office. Safaricom would have to hire all the 12,000 workers about to be sent home from Telkom Kenya to collect its Kshs. 20 billion annual income (Safaricom currently has about 2,000 employees). Yet it can collect payments from even the most remote parts of the country easily. Or how many workers would Kenya Airways or Kenya Breweries have to employ to collect their sales revenue? Instead, these companies have outsourced collections of their revenue to banks, travel agents, bars, kiosks etc.
KPLC, which also collects more than Kshs. 20 billion annually, has no mechanism for collecting payments by credit cards or the internet. You can pay by cheque, but you have to think twice about that because it can cost you up to Kshs. 10,000 extra if the cheque bounces or clears late (bank charges and a deposit averaging your electricity bill for two months are added to the original bill. On the plus side, you can also pay by ATM if you have an account with Standard Chartered Bank (which I don’t)