Category Archives: M-Pesa

Safaricom 2018 Results, Driven by M-Pesa and Data Growth.

This morning Safaricom released their March 2018 results, reporting that they had overcome a challenging year in Kenya to post record results as their shares also touched record highs.

Kenya’s largest company reported revenue of Kshs 224.5 billion (~$2.24 billion), a 10% increase shillings an EBIT of Kshs 79.3 billion, and a net income of Kshs 55 billion ($553 million). They will pay out a Kshs 44 billion ($440 million) as dividend (Kshs 1.1 per share)  to their shareholders.

As was the case the previous year, the results were driven by innovations in data, and mobile money (M-Pesa_. Mobile data revenue was Kshs 38.4 billion (up from Kshs 29.3 billion) and data usage per customer has grown to 56% to 421 MB, with more than 90% of data consumed through bundles which offered customers better value and freedom of usage.

M-pesa revenue was Kshs 62.9 billion as customers had moved from traditional M-Pesa to payments. The company has signed over 100,000 Lipa-Na-M-Pesa merchants and customers did 147 million Lipa na M-pesa transactions, an increase of 63%. Safaricom had reduced merchant fees by 50% and also made customer transactions that were smaller than Kshs  200 ($2) free of charge. In financing, Safaricom now issued 3 (micro) loans every second through partnerships with banks – M-Shwari (CBA) and KCB’s M-Pesa. Overall, M-pesa accounted for 28% of service revenue, and mobile data was 16% reducing Safaricom’s earlier reliance on voice and SMS which together were still a significant 50% of revenue.

These results were achieved in a year that Kenya had a prolonged electioneering period which slowed economic activity while credit growth was also the slowest in 14 years. But in releasing the results, Safaricom director, and former CEO, Michael Joseph cautioned that a draft industry competition study had proposals that seriously concerned Safaricom such as the introduction of price controls and regulated infrastructure sharing. The proposals, he said, would prevent Safaricom from rolling out services that their competitors could not replicate.

The results announcement also saw a surprise reappearance (via video) of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore who took personal leave late last year to seek medical treatment. Collymore announced that he was completing the final phases of his treatment and expected to be back in Nairobi in a  few weeks once he was cleared to travel by his doctors.

Some ongoing innovations include in food security (Digi Farm and Connected Farmer) and healthcare (M-Tiba which now has 1 million users. They recently created an agri-business department that will to seek to deliver mobile-based solutions to address food security in the country. Also, the Safaricom Foundation is refreshing its strategy to address sustainable development of communities in three areas; education, health, and economic empowerment.

Going forward, Safaricom projects EBIT of Kshs 85 – 89 billion for 2019 as they look to drive shareholder value through growing M-Pesa across borders, and appropriate partnerships and in environments with the right regulations, Also from e-commerce and they recently signed payment partnerships with PayPal and the Google. 

Digital App Loans: Understanding Borrower Behavior

An Interesting conversation was started by a tweet by Francis Waithaka on the true borrowing of costs of app loans that hundreds of Kenyans take every day by making a few clicks on their phones.

It elicited a lot of comments on the cost of finance offers to Kenyans, since an interest capping law passed in 2016 that restrict banks to lend at a maximum of 14%, the lack of regulation of app loans who may be taking advance of Kenyans by charging usurious rates etc. It also led to a mention of a research report from Micro Save about the digital credit landscape in Kenya that was shared by one of the authors.

The Microsave Report (PDF) titled “Where Credit Is Due: Customer Experience of Digital Credit In Kenya”  had lots of insights. It was drawn from feedback from 1,009 farmers located in 50 villages, equally split between Central Kenya and Western Kenya, and also with an equal number of men and women in the study.

At the end of it, the report makes some recommendations to the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya – such as to control the type of messaging sent by text to consumers, and to require app loan companies to share information and to list all defaulters, respectively.

Habits of Borrowers 

  • There is a preference for Chama’ s, SACCO’s and M-Shwari as a source of funding. App loan amounts are too small for significant investments.
  • Majority of the customers took up loans to smooth consumption, emergencies or to boost business.
  • They don’t understand terms and conditions of app loans and they don’t understand credit reference.
  • There are three types of borrowers: repayers (who pay loans on time), defaulters  (who don’t understand the consequences of being listed), and jugglers who take both traditional and app loans – but if they are financially stretched, they are more likely to repay the traditional loans.
  • Customers have learned to game the system through timely repayment of loans and juggling multiple borrowers.
  • There is no extra “PIN” required to request and withdraw an app loan and some family members have done this in secret leading the phone owner to default on a loan.
  • Digital credit usage doubled in Kenya between 2015 and 2016, with awareness and usage of digital credit by far lower in rural Kenya.
  • Digital credit, which offers privacy, is replacing shop credit and family/ friends as financiers.
  • The simplicity of the loan application procedures matters;  too much information requested or if there are too many variables that make it confusing, makes potential borrowers drop off.

Phone Types 

Download a loan app or use USSd

  • App usage is rather low – and this probably related to lower usage of smartphones as their batteries rarely last a full day as compared to cheaper feature phones that retain battery charge for several days of use.
  • Phones are mainly used for money transfer,  deposits, and withdrawals. There is little usage to get information or to browse the internet
  • 64% of respondents in the survey had a basic phone (57% in 2015). Smartphones were 14%, growing slightly and off-setting feature phones which declined slightly to 26%.
  • Loss of a phone may result in a  borrower defaulting on repayment.

Credit Reference Bureaus

  • Formal lenders require clearance from a credit reference bureau (CRB) which costs $22 (i.e Kshs 2,200) and that may exclude borrowers from formal finance. App loans don’t require this, e except that borrowers have not been black-listed.
  • One concern is there is little understanding of credit reference bureaus, and of channels for redress of any disputes.
  • Not all fintech’s report loans to credit reference bureaus.

App loan costs

  • High loan/interest charges are not a concern as they are comparable to other informal money lenders

At the time of the survey, M-Shwari issued 62 million loans (worth Kshs 1.3 trillion), while Equitel and KCB about 4 million each. In comments to accompany the release of their 2017 bank results last month, KCB had 13 million mobile customers, Equity Bank has 12.1 million, while a  CBA statement noted that the bank also serves 33 million mobile savings & loans customers, in East Africa, in partnership with mobile money operators.

PayPal in Kenya: Part II M-Pesa Links Up

PayPal’s reach in Kenya has now been extended to M-Pesa wallets, allowing users of the service to get payments directly to their mobile phones, thanks to a partnership between Safaricom, PayPal and TransferTo.

Under the new service, qualified M-Pesa customers can link their PayPal accounts to M-Pesa wallets, using an “M-PESA PayPal portal”  that will enable them to buy goods and services using M-Pesa to top up their PayPal accounts and this is expected to benefit international ecommerce and remittances. They can also withdraw cash at 148,000 M-Pesa agents around Kenya. M-Pesa has 27.8 million active customers while Nasdaq-listed PayPal has 227 million and is available in 200 markets, allowing merchants to receive funds in more than 100 currencies and withdraw funds in 56 currencies. TransferTo is a Singapore-based cross-border mobile payments enabler. 

PayPal has officially been in Kenya for almost five years exclusively with Equity Bank, dating back to 2013 when Equity and FNB were the only authorized Paypal partners in Africa. Equity is still the only bank in Kenya that PayPal users can withdraw with and during 2017, Equity reduced the PayPal withdrawal time from 8 days to 3 days. Last week Equity reviewed the cost of getting paid using PayPal to as little as 1% for withdrawal amounts that are over $5,000 (~Kshs 500,000), versus 1.5% for payments below $500 (~Kshs 50,000).

At the Equity Bank 2017 results announcement last month, CEO James Mwangi confirmed that usage of PayPal by Equity Bank customers had overtaken traditional remittance channels of Western Union and MoneyGram. PayPal was used for payments worth Kshs 6.2 billion in 2017 by Equity customers, up from Kshs 3.6 billion the year before, and accounted for 21% of the Kshs 30.2 billion worth of payments with another new service provider, Wave accounting for 52% of the value of transfers.

Barclays Timiza launched

On Friday, Barclays unveiled Timiza, its virtual banking strategy to extend its growth and services to the mobile space.

It comes after two other banks CBA (through M-Shwari) and KCB have also extended virtual services over Safaricom and M-Pesa to reach millions more digital customers and borrowers.

Timiza is immediately available to all M-Pesa customers (they are 27.8 million) who are either Barclays customers and non-customers. Timiza has a simple registration by dialing *848# or downloading the app from the google store and entering a national ID and phone number and within minutes of creating a new password, one can see their credit limit and start borrowing. The minimum loan amount is Kshs 50, and maximum Kshs 1 million, though it’s really up to 150,000 (~$1,500) depending on one’s credit rating and funds are immediately sent to one’s Timiza wallet (not M-pesa). For demonstration, a loan of Kshs 1,000 (~$10) for 30 days attracts a fee of 1.17% plus a facility fee of 5%, for a repayment of Kshs 1061.67

Besides being an easy and low-interest loan avenue, Timiza also offers a simple current account, savings account, fixed deposit account (term deposits of 1, 3, 6, 12 months – minimum Kshs 1,000. no top-up), group savings accounts, and channels for utility payments. One can also purchase insurance (a whole life cover policy) in the app.

A few months ago when M-Shwari was marking five years since its launch, CBA announced they would have variable pricing for good-repayers and a rebate on fees for people who paid loans within 10 days. These have not been done, but there are hints of such revisions in Timiza

Other Timiza Notes

The Timiza T&C‘s mostly relate to the use of personal information and clauses on resolving disputed. But they also have some interesting things:

  • There are no fees for transfers between Timiza and M-pesa
  • Barclays may suspend a Timiza account and credit if they discover it is being used for fraud or illegal activities, and they may also suspend them if they become aware that a customer is defaulting on other loans.
  • Unique from M-Shwari in that the loans can be rolled-over, and there will be a “roll-over” fee levied. However, the staff at Barclays branches have no authority to alter Timiza agreements. 
  • Timiza users will be eligible  for store finance at Barclays-selected merchants
  • One can select the period for repayment of a loan when applying for a loan  – maximum of 30 days

Barclays has 88 branches which are located in 38 of Kenya’s 47 counties and says they are responding to their customers preference for more mobile and internet banking channels. Barclays targets to get 5 million new customers in the next five years.

$1=Kshs 101

Huawei Mate 10 Kenya Launch

Huawei has launched its Mate 10, a premium phone in Kenya in conjunction with e-commerce platform Jumia. The company which now sells 140 million phones a year, and aims to power past Samsung and Apple in the global phone sales race, has been in Kenya for 19 years powering base-stations, communications, surveillance, and fibre networks, devices and systems including M-Pesa and will next do intelligent traffic lights starting in Nairobi.

Huwaei’s traditions of innovation, research, engineering, patents and new technology are all seen in the Huawei Mate 10 which is compact than its Mate 9 predecessor, but with the same screen size. The Huawei Mate 10 runs on Android 8.0 and is powered by the Kirin 970, a powerful Huawei-made chipset which enables the artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for the phone to study the phone user’s habits, and predicts future usage and allocates phone resources to enhance the user experience.

The AI also allows real-time translation on the phone, by voice or of documents, by taking a picture (e.g. of a page of Chinese text) of 50 languages (and counting). This happens on the phone, not in the cloud, and this provides better privacy & security for the user, minimizes data usage and is faster. Huawei has a partnership with camera maker Leica that has seen them enhance photography capabilities; e.g. the Mate 10 camera recognizes millions of images of people, scenes and objects like food being photographed and optimizes the settings to produce better pictures from the combination of two 20X and 12X cameras.

For practical use in many markets, the Mate 10 is a dual SIM phone capable of holding two 4G SIM cards, and the new powerful battery will easily last two days with normal use despite the large screen and fast processing speeds – and a quick charge of the phone for just 20 minutes should be enough to get a full day of use. The Mate 10 has a curved back for easy grip and is spill and dust resistant.

The Mate 10 can be plugged into a screen to work like a desktop for the user to make edits and show items like demos and presentations right from the phone. The split-screen allows true multitasking of functions and the user can still take calls or check social media while working on other projects.

The Mate 10 phone is now available exclusively on Jumia for Kshs 79,999  (~$775) and for the Black Friday sale period, Jumia is offering a free power bank and a Kshs 2,000 shopper voucher. In the coming weeks, there will be more variants of the Mate 10 offered on Jumia, at Safaricom shops and the open market including the Mate 10 Lite phone that will retail for about $500.