Safaricom unveiled the first in a series of voice-based features developed for its m-Pesa platform to increase the usability of the service for visually impaired people.

In what the company hailed as a world-first, its customers will be able to check balances before and after making transactions by dialling a number from the handset connected to their account and entering a code.

This, the company said, would negate the need for visually impaired customers to reveal account details to third parties and decrease the risk of fraud.

In a statement, Safaricom added additional voice services were being developed and would be announced in the coming months.

“Tremendous gains lie in being able to enhance the ability to integrate persons with disabilities into every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life,” Safaricom Foundation director for strategy Joseph Ogutu (pictured) said.

“We hope that this latest innovation will enable more visually impaired customers on our network to have control over their m-Pesa accounts.”

Latest figures from the Communications Authority of Kenya from late June showed 22.6 million of the country’s 28 million mobile money subscribers used Safaricom’s platform.

International charity the Fred Hollows Foundation estimates there are 328,000 blind people in Kenya with a further 750,000 visually impaired.