Kenya’s biggest telco, Safaricom, has launched Niokolee, a new service allowing its users to solicit for airtime top-ups from friends and family. Niokolee is a Sheng’ word that loosely translates to ‘Help me out’.
The service is available to both prepaid and postpaid Safaricom customers. Niokolee will enable users to place a request to other Safaricom customers to send them Safaricom airtime, with amounts ranging from Ksh10 to Ksh100.
To use Niokolee, users have to dial *444# and select the Niokolee option to place a request. You will then enter the desired amount before keying in the Safaricom number to which the request is being sent and hit okay to finalize the request.
The recipient of the request will then get a notification prompting them to either accept or decline the Niokolee request. The person you are requesting credit from needs to have airtime topped up so as to make the transfer to you.
“Your friend 07******** has requested you to gift them with Sh(amount) Kredo. Reply with 1 to accept or 2 to decline,” the prompt reads.
Should the person accept, the requested amount is transferred to the borrower, with both parties being notified. Responding to the Niokolee request attracts standard SMS charges.
The move is expected to help shore up the telco’s revenues. Safaricom’s profit after tax for the full year ended March 2023 fall 22.2% to hit Ksh52.5 billion, down from Ksh67.5 million the previous year.
The service is meant to help users in situations where they really need to make calls, texts or access the internet but lack airtime – similar to its Please Call Me, Sambaza airtime transfer and Reverse Call feature.
The reverse call, launched by Safaricom in 2019, enables a caller to transfer the cost of a call to the receiver by adding ‘#’ before the number they are calling.