Interviews: Elijah Mugambi From Turkana Wasn’t Sure If He Was Being Conned When He Was Told He Won A Truck In The Lipa Na Mpesa Promotion


Mpesa by Safaricom has been an important part of Kenyan lives for over 13 years now. Over the years, the service has evolved to fit the needs of the customer, Mpesa has quickly become something we all need. Lipa na Mpesa is just one of the ways that Mpesa has improved lives and facilitated transactions between business owners and their customers. So far, a total of 160,000 business use Lipa na Mpesa. A promotion by Safaricom launched on the 8th of January sought to reward customers and businesses who had transacted the most with Lipa na Mpesa. Awesome prizes like lorries, tractors and houses were up for grabs.

Elijah was one of the 8 lucky winners of the 12-ton Fuso lorry. He is a young businessman from Turkana county, and he gave us his personal account of how a faulty phone almost cost him his opportunity of becoming a truck owner.

What is your name and what do you do for a living?

My name is Elijah Douglas Mugambi. I am a 34-year-old businessman from Kalokos in Turkana county. I run a business called “Eating house” which includes a bar, hotel and guest house.

Were you aware of the Lipa na Mpesa promotion prior to winning the truck?

Yes. I knew of the promotion because every time I used my M-Pesa to send money I always received a message telling me that I had received points for the promotion, bringing me closer to winning one of the prizes available.

How important is the Mpesa service to your business?

I have been using Mpesa since starting my business. Initially, I used my personal line to receive monies from customers who did not have cash. It became a challenge when the customers would send the exact amount without including the withdrawal fee. As a businessman, I realized that by using my personal line to receive money I was losing a considerable amount in withdrawal fees so around two years ago, I got the till number which is not only convenient for me but to the customers as well since they do not have to send extra.

I live in an area without a bank nearby, the only way to transact with ease is by using Mpesa services so it is something that is not only important to me, but to everyone who lives around here. Lowdar and Kitale are the nearest towns and that is where I buy most of my stock from. I rarely carry cash, most of the time I pay via Mpesa.

On average, how many transactions can you do on Mpesa in a day?

Sometimes it depends on the day, but it is always around 6-10 transactions. Like I said, Mpesa is very essential to me as a businessperson because I buy bundles, airtime, and send airtime. This is a service I cannot do without. In addition, I have two registered Safaricom lines and I use both to transact on a daily basis.

What are the advantages of using Mpesa as opposed to cash?

Mpesa is such a good fit for me and my business because I can buy stock and pay bills from the comfort of my house. The advantages are more evident in these uncertain times of coronavirus. Though we have closed the hotel and bar, the guest house is still running, and we receive guests from all parts of the country. We have since restricted all payment to Mpesa to avoid the possibility of the virus being spread via the notes. Like the government said, adopting a cashless system is essential to controlling this pandemic.

How and when were you made aware that you had won the truck from the promotion?

It was a very ordinary evening in March and I was at the workplace not doing much. My main number was off and when Safaricom called, they could not get through to me. Because I have two lines registered, they tried the other line which was in the restaurant and one of my employees picked the call. The handset was faulty and so they could not understand each other properly. I was called to attend to the matter and at first, I thought a customer had requested a reversal and that is why the call was coming through.

Moments later I switched my main line back on, within minutes of the phone being on, Safaricom called once and a gentleman identified himself and asked me if I knew of the Lipa na Mpesa promotion. I told him yes, reluctantly because I wasn’t sure if it was the real Safaricom or a con. He asked if I knew of the prizes that were up for grabs. I remembered seeing somewhere that tractors and houses could be won.

He explained that the final draw had been completed and I was the winner of the Fuso truck.

Do you believe or did you still have doubts?

In the adverts for the promotion, I had only seen two prizes, either a tractor or a house. Never a lorry. I had my doubts, but I chose to believe but tread carefully. The gentleman sensing my reservations reassured me that he was calling via the official Safaricom line and hence I had nothing to worry about.

What happened next?

They asked if I was available to go receive the lorry on Thursday that followed. I told them that I was available. They asked who would be accompanying me to Nairobi and I told them my wife and child would be joining me. They took our names and booked us a flight to Nairobi.

Did you tell people about the good news right away?

Not really. Even when we landed in Nairobi, even my parents weren’t aware that I had won the prize. I wanted to wait and see the lorry with my eyes first so that I could share the news. When we arrived where the presentation was to be done, I started to believe that this was really happening. I met the gentleman who had called me to give me the good news. It was such a surreal moment. My wife and I were treated very well by the people at Safaricom and once I called my parents to them the whole story they thought it was too good to be true and said they would believe when they saw it.

How did you feel when they finally gave you the keys to your lorry?

I was in disbelief and beyond excited. I come from Turkana county, far far away from Nairobi. You would think I was the last person in the world to win such a prestigious prize, but I did, and it was not a dream. One of the officials from Safaricom told me to consider myself very lucky because the odds of winning in those promotions were very slim. She said I was very blessed and indeed I felt blessed.

Did you go home with your prize on the same day?

After officially receiving the lorry, we went back to the hotel that Safaricom had booked us. We spent the night and flew back home the following morning. As you can see, it was an amazing experience and it was all courtesy of Safaricom.

How did the lorry make its way to Turkana county?

When we received the lorry in Nairobi, it was still unregistered and there was some paperwork that still needed to be completed. Safaricom directed us to the dealership where the lorry had come from and they helped us complete the ownership and registration process. The process took around two weeks and once the lorry was ready, the dealership advised me to send a driver who would undergo a short training so as to be conversant with operating the lorry. They catered for everything and were very helpful in the entire process. Once the driver had been trained, I made my way to Nairobi, signed some documents and just like that, we were on our way to Turkana with a complete lorry ready for business.

How were you received at home?

There was a lot of excitement when I arrived. Sometimes it is easier to believe something when you can see it and people could finally see and touch the lorry. There is often a lot of scepticism around the possibility of winning prizes in such promotions but the fact that one of their own had won, made them believe that real people win, and it is not staged.

How will this lorry change your life?

First, I will direct it to my own business. We buy goods regularly for the restaurant and bar. In the past, I was hiring transport services and sometimes the prices were a bit high. Now, however, I can use my own truck to ferry goods from the supplier to my business. It will be way cheaper and efficient because I will no longer have to go by some else’s schedule, I can get supplies whenever I need them. All I will need to do is to fuel. Were it not for the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus, I would be busy doing business and this lorry would have propelled me to greater heights already.

What would say to Safaricom users out there who would like to win a prize one day as well?

As ever, put God first always. Second, when you become aware of ongoing promotions, do not ignore them. If you were a sceptic before, you should start believing because I am living proof that it is possible to win. From my experience, I can proudly say that Safaricom values its customers and are willing to change a life whenever they get a chance to. They are fair, I won, and I am from Turkana, I have no relative in Safaricom and I have a brand-new lorry. Participate as much as you can and try your luck. It is real and it is very possible to win.

I Might Be Blind But My Vision Has Always Been Very Clear – Diana Yatich, Safaricom HR Operations Officer

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