Safaricom, Vodacom’s 35%-held associate company in Kenya, has partnered with PayPal to allow its M-Pesa users to transfer money to and from their PayPal accounts.

The tie-up, which also includes technology provider TransferTo, would be "a huge boost to international ecommerce", the parties said in a statement on Monday.

Safaricom customers in Kenya would be able to link their PayPal accounts to their M-Pesa wallets, allowing them to buy goods and services from merchants around the world.

Customers would be able to top up their PayPal accounts using M-Pesa credit.

Meanwhile, Kenyan merchants would gain access to international customers, the companies said.

"M-Pesa’s collaboration with PayPal will open up global market places and the global economy to millions of Kenyan and Kenyan-based businesses and individuals." said Safaricom’s director of strategy, Joseph Ogutu.

The partnership was part of PayPal’s long-term strategy "to enable e-commerce and democratise financial services on the African continent", said Efi Dahan, the Nasdaq-listed group’s GM for the Middle East, Africa and Russia.

Dahan told Business Day in March that PayPal wanted to form partnerships with mobile money operators to grow its exposure to Africa’s large unbanked population.

"We want to expand our business across the unbanked African population.

"It’s a success story in Africa and we want to do more collaborations with these kinds of players," Dahan said.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said in late 2017 that Safaricom’s management wan-ted to "look at taking [M-Pesa] beyond the borders of the countries that we have operations in — that could be quite an exciting opportunity into the future".

The mobile money service was facilitating R104bn worth of payments each month, Joosub said at the time.