Category Archives: M-Shwari

CBA and NIC to merge

The boards of NIC Group and Commercial Bank of Africa have announced preliminary plans to merge. This follows talks that had been reported as far back as January 2015.

The move is driven by a need to consolidate capital and liquidity with new technology opportunities to provide more services to customers and grow returns for shareholders.

The merger of the eight and ninth largest banks in the country will result in a banking institution that will be the second or third largest by assets, behind KCB and Equity.  As of September 2018, NIC and CBA had a combined asset base of Kshs 443 billion ($4.3 billion) and Kshs 9.3 billion in pre-tax profits. 

CBA is already the largest bank by customer numbers thanks to M-Shwari, its partnership with Safaricom’s M-Pesa that had over 21 million customers last year.

More details will come later and NIC is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

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.

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

Kenya Fintech Tools for Youth

A rundown of local fintech tools for phones available in Kenya, both from banks and non-banks. Most don’t give you much access to all their features till you register and It’s not clear where the user data for some of them ends up. They are mostly there for android phones, less so for iPhones. Take a spin, and share feedback if you have used them.

Non Bank One’s

Abacus helps novice or pro traders, understand and trade at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

From CIC Group comes Bima Credo with which people can get life insurance by buying and using airtime credit. This enables consumers to pay for their life insurance premiums in affordable amounts and as part of their daily mobile airtime usage.

Mula: (Android only) is a bill payment service from Cellulant. One can pay all bills in one place, and track past payments, pay for Nairobi City parking and buy items for friends on any network. You will never forget a (recurring) bill, as Mula is fully integrated with Safaricom’s M-Pesa API so this means no copying and pasting transaction details. All you have to do is accept or decline the transaction. Another review by Moses.

M-Shwari Take part in the #52WeekChallenge With M-Shwari that locks savings and one will be able to save Kshs 68,500 ($685) a year, a handy sum, just by small periodic installments.

Open World has Open Business, a point of sale app for small businesses. They can use it to track sales and inventory in real-time. No long-term contract is required, just Kshs 500 (~$5). The app is a bottom-up fintech tool for SMEs that will enable data based lending from banks and alternative lenders.

The Safaricom App now comes with M-PESA functions and can be downloaded to Android and iOS smartphones.  The app enables customers to select contacts from their phone when sending money and customers. Aside from that, merchants will also enjoy faster payments through Lipa Na M-PESA to their accounts at 23 banks ..this will cut down the time that it takes to move money from a Lipa Na M-PESA till to a bank account from as much as 28 hours down to seconds.

Uhasibu has payroll which simplifies payroll management, including statutory payments to a half-dozen government agencies that businesses have to make every month, and these include different taxes. Another review by  Moses.

Zeep (Android): Enables teens to learn finance in a secure environment. Their parent/guardians register (*823#) then also link and register to their children/ beneficiaries/ dependents numbers. They can use the app to make payments for NHIF, land rates and business permits. They can also allocate weekly amounts to teens and watch as they pay for utilities and other bills.

Bank One’s

CBA has Loop which is geared toward the young hustler or someone who needs banking for a side gig. Tagged as unbank yourself, users, once they register and get a debit card, can pay bills and categorize items to spend on and track these against set budgets e.g. see how much they spend on food & dining., transport ( Uber) , or rent. The can also check balances, and see a financial snapshot at any time. Another review by Macharia.

Equity has Eazzy banking platform from Finserve. One can store billing details to pay after and also send money securely to another phone or bank account, pay for goods and services, buy airtime for EquiTel and other networks. One can also set and save for a goal, send money to favorite people (contacts on whatsapp, twitter, facebook) and apply for loans instantly of up to Kshs 3 Million (~or $30,000)  and track NSE shares.

Stanbic has a Kidz banking app (available in South Africa) – an educational and fun app that teaches children how to save and manage their pocket money. Kids earn money when they complete their chores and can save towards goals while parents get to approve payments, set and monitor tasks, etc.

Other banks like Coop and KCB have accounts tailored for children and young adults with extras such as book & uniform discounts and education & insurance policies, but it would be nice if they added financial education tools and apps dedicated to those bank accounts.