Category Archives: M-Pesa

KCB to Unveil a Digital Finance Future in Q2 of 2017

KCB is working on revolutionizing their banking strategy that will culminate in a digital finance rollout in a few weeks. This was revealed by KCB CEO Joshua Oigara at a financial technology forum at the Capital Club in Nairobi that featured futurist & author Brett King. Oigara said that in their 100 years of existence, KCB had gained 5 million customers, but in the two years since launching KCB M-Pesa, that number had doubled.
KCB is working with King and Deloitte, on new digital finance products and strategy, which they had already shown to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), who have to approve banking products and changes in the country.  Oigara said that customers are adaptable and don’t mind the changes, but that it is banks that have resisted innovation, and that said he has met many young KCB customers who have never been to branches (mobile is all that matters for them).

Numbers from KCB’s last Investor briefing (Q3 2016) show that 73% of KCB transactions were done outside branches (up from 62% a year earlier). Also, 75% of customers use mobile phone banking services and 91% of loans transactions are processed this way – and they averaged 80,000 loans per day after adjusting bank loan terms in line with the banking amendment law late in 2016.

Digital banking was worth Kshs 641 billion ($6.4 billion) to KCB and of that Kshs 332 billion (52%)  was from mobile. 18% (Kshs 116 billion) was from internet channels, while ATM was responsible for 17%, 9% from agency banking, and 4% (28 billion) from merchant channels.

Rumours are that the bank’s strategy would be akin to Equity Banks’ 3.0 strategy .  This would enable KCB to manage customer accounts, cash, loans, insurance, as they send money or buy airtime, and sell them other products at a lower cost than agents and branches, while also integrating better with their customer lifestyles.

Writing in the Business Daily on the financial technology revolution that’s coming to East Africa, Oigara cautioned that, currently, a lot of the innovation in finance is happening outside traditional banking and finance institutions and beyond the sphere of regulators to manage risk in banking.
KCB will be having more fintech forums in the coming months.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Digital Kenya

Digital Kenya, by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss, charts the rapid emergence of Kenya in the world of technology. Through stories and interviews with people in the sector, you learn about risk-taking and making policy from humble beginnings back in the mid-1990’s when the whole country shared 32 kbps, and the then telecom Kenya Posts & Telecommunications (KPTC) monopoly declared internet services as being illegal. At the time, KPTC was connecting about 10,000 users to the phone network, and with 77,000 potential customers waiting, they envisioned a 5% tele-density in Kenya by the year 2015. The tele-density in 2015 turned out to be 88% thanks to rapid changes that came after fibre cables and the cheaper mobile phones emerged.

One story is a narration of how, as a peace agreement was being signed in February 2008 to end the post-election violence in Kenya, the ICT Ministry managed to secure a guarantee to enable the laying of the TEAMS fibre cable that ultimately changed the face of ICT in Kenya. This came after the ministry had stepped back from another long-discussed  bureaucratic cable project – one called EASSY. This was one of the examples of government officials circumventing red tape for a good outcome. Another was the roll out of M-Pesa which is also cited here, ahead of regulations and thanks to some  individuals in government giving it their cautious blessing. Not all of them turned out well, and one case cited is of officials at the Postal Corporation sabotaging a land deal that would have led to the establishment in Nairobi of the headquarters of a multinational telecommunications organization.

There are many other stories that show issues of privatization, race, the lack of vision & finance, tech startups, the need for skills to scale, and the disconnect between local capital & the tech sector. It also shows the disconnect of ICT with both formal banking and also with the agricultural sector, two crucial links yet to be adequately bridged in Kenya.

Thanks to the Ford Foundation, the books is available free of charge and a free book download can be obtained.

M-Shwari, Equitel, and Mobile Lending Apps in Kenya

Just 24 hours apart, Equity Bank and Safaricom, which arguably have the most financial connections with Kenyan citizens, through m-banking, both made financial results announcements. Equity released their Q3 2016 results while Safaricom, whose year ends in March, was announcing their 2017 half-year results.

Safaricom has M-Pesa and also powers M-shwari at CBA and KCB M-pesa while Equity has Equitel a bank in a SIM card that gets around the barrier of the M-pesa. At the beginning of the year Equity had 8.8 million customers and the country’s largest bank – KCB had 3.8 million . They are surprisingly topped by CBA with 12.9 million customers, largely due to their partnership with Safaricom called M-shwari which allows savings and lending directly from a phone SIM card.

In the results this week, Safaricom reported pre-tax half-year profit of Kshs 34 billion derived from their 26 million customers solar-2Bphone-2Bchargerand their CEO said that they process about 21,000 M-pesa transactions per minute and that 2 loans are processed every second. M-pesa revenue increased by 33.7% to Kshs 26 billion, and message revenue grew by 8.1% to Kshs 8.6 billion (with the increase in premium rate SMS revenue probably attributable to sports betting /mobile gaming)

They now have 50,000 merchants using their cashless platform called Lipa na M-Pesa, and announced a waiver on person-to-person and Lipa Na M-Pesa transactions under Kshs 100 (~$1)  “We have done this to empower the people who support this company the most – the mama mbogas, the small businessmen, and the micro-agents who form our network.”

As at September 2016, Equity had a Kshs 15.1 billion pre-tax profit, an 18% increase over last year.  The Q3 results also showed a second straight quarter of reduction in loans at the bank from Kshs 222 to 221 billion. Whether this is due to the recent interest rate-capping bill or an absence of lending opportunities, or an economic pullback is not clear, but the deposits raised by the bank went to government treasuries which grew by Kshs 21 billion in the quarter.

Equity reaffirmed an ongoing commitment to shift in customer service channels from physical branches to phone and agents. In the first year of Equitel (their telco), it did 151 million transactions in the quarter 142% more than the year before. Equitel is now the second largest move of mobile money in Kenya – at 14%, being M-Pesa (84%)  but ahead of Airtel Money, Orange Money and Mobikash.

Equity Bank has also released a series of Eazzy banking solutions and tools including (an)  Eazzy App, Eazzy Chama (investment group/SACCO management tool) and (an) EazzyAPI (for developers to build on).

Away from the two, the World Bank’s CGAP blog recently highlighted and compared several phone-based borrowing / m-banking solutions and apps available to Kenyans. They are easily accessible but unregulated, and they vary their terms, credit scoring methods, limits (which range from ~S1 to $10,000) interest rates, duration,  and the ultimate cost to the borrower. They include;  Branch, Equitel (Eazzy Loan and  Eazzy Plus Loan), Jumo/ Kopa Cash, KCB-M-Pesa, Kopa Chapaa, Micromobile, Mjiajiri, M-pawa-Sacco, M-Shwari, Okoa Stima, Pesa na Pesa, Pesa Pata, Pesa Zetu, Saida, Tala, and Zindisha.

$1 = Kshs 101

Water Moment: Understanding Nairobi Water Bills

Have you been getting more and more visits from the water meter crews from Nairobi Water (NCWSC), demanding payment?

For years, I’ve been paying every month the same amount of about Kshs 500 (~$5), without seeing my bill, but of late, the bill has always remained over Kshs 1,000 even when I have paid twice within the month. One day they even came around with a bulldozer which they told area people was to yank out meters from people who have not paid.

So I had some tweet chats and went  to the NCWSC offices and found out some stuff:

  • They no longer send out statements or hardly do. They have cut back on mailing statements via the post office. They won’t even issue you with a bill event at the office
  • They increased their rates at the end of 2015. The guy who came with the bulldozer and another at the NCWSC office said the rates doubled at the beginning of the year.
  • They have instituted a charge of Kshs 1,000 on every unpaid or overdue bill. This means even if you’re late on a Kshs 204 bill (the lowest bill you can get), you get charged Kshs 1,000.
  • You can check your bill via *888# on your phone. Sometimes the SMS comes through without information but you still get charged Kshs 10 for the service.
  • They have an online platform for one to check bills but not ready. Alternately there is a There is a Jambopay Water Bill checker that’s  free to check your bill. It is accurate, but often offline.
  • It costs Kshs 33 to pay your water bill via M-Pesa (assuming Kshs  30 goes to Safaricom and Kshs 3 excise tax charge of the financial service.
  • The due dates for bills vary in the month, depending on when the water readers come round to read or estimate the amounts.
  • Water, electricity and other utility companies can now report customers to credit reference bureaus over unpaid bills.. but who is the customer to be reported? The person who pays the bill? This is often a tenant of a house or building. Or the registered owner of a property with a meter? Sometimes this is the landlord or the contractor who put up the building.

waterOther water tales:

  •  A few years ago, IBM Research in Nairobi gave a talk on the water situation in Nairobi. There are 3,000 known boreholes in Nairobi and it can cost $10,000 to drill one as you have to go deeper than 400 meters instead of 200 in the past.
  • IBM also reported that 40 – 50% of water sourced is lost (just doesn’t get to consumers) AND that 50% of hospital visits in Kenya may be water/sanitation related.
  • A feel good story about water supply and the World Bank in Kenya.
  • Are water charges going up again? – Not sure if these are even more new charges from October 2016
  • Adding value to waterHow the business of bottled water went mad ..How did a substance that falls from the air, springs from the earth and comes out of your tap become a hyperactive multibillion-dollar business? (The Guardian)

Even with the new water rates, getting water from the NCWSC is a lesser evil than paying for your lorries, but…

$ = Kshs 101

Banks adjust mobile phone loans

Mobile banking has really come of age in the last few years. As Carol Musyoka wrote CBA has moved from about 64,000 accounts before M-Shwari to 12.9 million accounts as at December 2015 primarily due to this virtual platform (i.e. M-shwari) without any exponential growth in its branch expansion.

The ability to save and borrow money just by using a few clicks on your phone has been revolutionary. Over at Equity Bank, CEO James Mwangi talks about the application for loans that start at 1 am, with approval being done in a few hours and the loans being disbursed to borrowers phones at 5 a.m. – long before the bank branch doors open at 8 a.m.

The interest rate-capping bill (Njomo) which covers loans has been deemed to cover all bank loans, but this has seen different interpretations at the leading banks that offer dedicated phones banking services:

Apply and get a loan directly on our phone

Apply and get a loan directly on our phone

  • CBA: Have insisted that the 7.5% fee that they charge is not interest, but a facility fee. This has been the case since M-shwari launched back in 2012. The are said to have issued Kshs 40 billion by the end of 2015, and across the border, CBA has got 60,000 mobile bank customers in Uganda in just two months in partnership with MTN (MoKash)
  • Coop Bank: Disburse mobile salary advance loans at 1.16% and business loans at 1.2%. They don’t charge any facilitation fees and loan are payable in 1 to 3 months. (Simply sial *667# to apply for a  #CoopMobileLoan). Coop are reported to be processing about 1,300 loan applications a day up from 250 per day before the rate cap. (70% of its new loan applications this month were requests for refinancing of existing loans). In 2015, the service had 2.7 million users, and 183,000 loans were disbursed.
  • Equity: Adjusted all their loans, including credit cards and mobile  bank loans to 14.5% (Previously “Eazzy Loan” and “Eazzy Loan Plus” products had an interest rate of between 2% and 10% per month) . The loans are said tp have a 1% facilitation fee
  • KCB resumed lending their m-pesa loans after a three-week technical hitch. They have adjust loan rates to 1.16% with a one-off negotiation fee of 2.55% resulting in a total of 3.66%  (including government excise duty tax) on loans. The loan duration has also been reduced to just one month – with no more 3 or 6 month loans.

More and More