A tech innovator, Stephen Muikia Njongoro, has sued over 30 banks in Kenya for allegedly stealing the PesaLink idea from him.
Muikia says that he presented the idea to the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) in 2015, but the lenders took the idea and implemented it as PesaLink with similar salient features and components.
PesaLink is an interbank money transfer solution that enables customers to receive funds from other banks straight into their accounts. PesaLink is operated by Integrated Payment Services Ltd (IPSL), a fully-owned subsidiary of KBA, and can handle person-to-person transfers from as low as Ksh10 to a high of Ksh999,999.
“PesaLink bears similar salient features and components as my original expressed idea, which I had presented to the defendants way back in 2015. The second defendant has even shamefully used a substantively similar logo as that proposed by the plaintiff, as the trademark for its stolen PesaLink product,” said Muikia’s lawyer senior counsel Tom Ojienda in court documents.
Mr Muikia, in the case filed last year at the Commercial Division of the High Court in Nairobi, wants KBA stopped from using PesaLink, and compelled to compensate him Ksh1 billion for using his idea illegally. He says the lenders have minted over Ksh2 billion since inception, hence he should be given half of the proceeds.
Mr Njongoro called his idea “All in one banking innovation” with the slogan “All in one, huduma zote za benki zote or lipa na benki yako”. The product was registered with the Kenya Copyright Board and issued with a certificate on February 2, 2015.
Mr Muikia first sought the guidance of the Central Bank of Kenya, who advised him to approach KBA.
Even after presenting it to KBA, the group responded in July 2015, saying the innovation was not right for the banking industry.
KBA argued that the service would be costly to customers, kill competition among banks and destroy bankers’ independent brands, only to later launch it through IPSL in February 2017.
As of September 2019, Ksh220 billion had been moved through Pesalink.