Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom has teamed with US money transfer company MoneyGram to enable money to be sent from abroad directly to a Safaricom user’s M-Pesa account.

“The new offering makes it easier, faster and more convenient for Kenyans living in more than 90 countries to send money directly to nearly 20 million M-Pesa customers living in the country, opening up the possibility to tap into the over $1.7 billion sent home by Kenyans abroad every year,” notes a statement on the deal.

The deal is expected to drive growth in Safaricom’s M-Pesa division and boost Kenya’s remittances.

M-Pesa accounts for around a fifth of Kenya’s largest operator’s revenue.

“Over the last eight years, M-Pesa has enabled nearly 70 per cent of the adult population in Kenya to access financial services, up from 40 per cent in 2007,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. “M-Pesa is enabling an increasingly secure and vibrant digital economy in Kenya. This new relationship with MoneyGram enables us to tap into remittances coming in from Kenyans living in other countries.”

Remittances from Kenyans abroad are now part of the top contributors to the country’s gross domestic product. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) recorded a 20 per cent increase in remittances from the diaspora in August 2014 – a total of $129 million (with half of that coming from North America). A Reuters report notes that Kenyans abroad sent a total of $1.3 billion in remittances in the whole of 2013.

The new service aims to enable M-Pesa subscribers to receive funds into their account at any time. Consumers can visit MoneyGram locations in 90 countries or MoneyGram Online to send funds to an M-Pesa customer in Kenya. The M-Pesa customer will receive an SMS in real time confirming that the funds have arrived and will be able to collect the cash from an M-Pesa agent.

Safaricom has a similar agreement with Western Union.

Today’s announcement follows a wider deal announced in February, whereby Vodafone (a 40 per cent owner of Safaricom) and MoneyGram teamed up to enable consumers to transfer funds directly from around 200 countries to the 19 million users of M-Pesa.