Safaricom, the largest telco in Kenya, has been accused of stealing the idea for a new service from an individual who previously pitched it to them.
Davidson Ivusa claimed he pitched the idea to Safaricom nearly a decade ago, in 2010. His idea, which he called Jichomoe, is to allow Safaricom callers to transfer the calling cost to the user they are calling. This is similar to a function that used to be popular on fixed phone lines.
Safaricom had supposedly promised Ivusa to contact him once a decision on whether to develop the feature was reached.
Ivusa then found out the company had launched a new feature like the one he had pitched to them. He sent a legal letter to Safaricom and threatened to take legal action against within seven days of the demand. He wants the telco to stop using the feature with immediate effect or hold discussions with Safaricom so they can acquire the rights to his intellectual property.
We cannot confirm if Ivusa has since sued Safaricom.
Safaricom is no stranger to being accused of copying ideas. In 2017, when it released an NFC payment solution, M-Pesa 1 Tap, it was accused by Jonathan Gikabu of stealing his idea. Gikabu, who is managing director of Innovase Limited, a software company in Kenya, claimed to have presented the idea to an employee of Safaricom, who allegedly broke the non-disclosure agreement he signed, and presented the idea to the company as his own.
The telco has also been accused of stealing Thibitisha, a software used on its Mpesa payments platform to limit direct deposits and remote withdrawals. Solut Technology claimed to have first developed the idea and had submitted it in October 2016 to Safaricom through Zindua, a platform by the telco that allows submissions of innovative ideas.
Solut was then invited a few weeks after to pitch their idea, which they dubbed Wavu, to Safaricom. Safaricom supposedly said during the meeting that they did not have an app similar to Wavu. But a few days after the meeting, Safaricom told Solut that they decided not to implement the app because it would be too expensive. Solut found out that Safaricom had launched its own version of the Wavu app under a new name, Thibitisha, in November 2017.