Category Archives: Nation Media Group

Improving NationHela

Despite the ease of use, and convenience of Nation Hela as an online prepaid card and as a travel card, there are few challenges that need to be tweaked to improve the user experience for National Hela users.

Card Top Up 
The only reliable way of topping up the card is by physically going to a Diamond Trust Bank branch. Agents of the bank don’t handle NationHela top-up’s and surprisingly, Safaricom’s M-Pesa – which would be the ideal way for millions of Kenyans to load a card – does not work all the time. It’s a hit or miss experience, with many phone calls having to be made to Hela at Diamond Trust to trace the date/time/amount of the M-Pesa transfer – only for that to be reversed. 

Account Management
For now you can request for an abbreviated statement by SMS, as well as get an SMS each time you transact with the card in Kenya.  

There’s also the NationHela site, where a user should be able to view a history of transactions, and do other functions like block a stolen card. But access to the site remains a challenge – at first it looked like another bank site that only works on Internet Explorer browser and a Microsoft Windows PC combination, but no matter the device tablet, mac, or PC laptop, access to the site is a challenge – with password characters not visible, password changes not reflected, pop-up’s (that are auto-blocked on many browsers due to spam) etc. 
Easy of top-up and viewing transaction history are two essential user experience challenge points that need to be addressed, for the card to get wide acceptance.

Travelling with Nation Hela

Traveling with a NationHela has been a breeze. Unlike with bank credit cards where you have to call and notify them ahead to approve international charges that may be charged to the card, you don’t have to do that with NationHela – just top up the card and it’s ready to go. 

I used it to pay various bills in the Middle east including fast food meals, bar bills and gift purchases. The approvals were instant in all cases after swiping the card and receipts were printed  in whatever currency whether AED or US dollars. But one challenge is that, unlike in Kenya when you get an SMS each time you transact, that doesn’t happen when you’re roaming out of the country – and you don’t know how much you have used, and how much is left on the card. 

It would be nice if they could email this information to card users as an option. One is supposed to be able to view a statement via the Nation Hela website, but that’s not easily accessible yet. Having a full statement will make the card a truly useful global card to use for corporate travel, removing a headache at many companies of having to make imprest cash payment to staff ahead of travel, and reconciling the expenses after. 

With credit cards prone to fraud during international travel, there’s a move to promote and push prepaid cards and use them as an option to credit cards. Other cards in the market include multi-currency cards from I&M Bank and Nakumatt-ones powered by KCB and Diamond-Trust banks. 

Reactivating Nation Hela

The last few days have been spent trying to reconnect a Nation Hela card, that has been not much used since the launch just over a year ago.  The card was active, but the registration documents were never uploaded, rendering it inactive after a short period of usage. 
The issuance of cards, back office, registration, and payments are handled by Diamond Trust bank and their branches are the easiest way to obtain the cards, as well as load cash onto the prepaid card. For some reason, top ups with M-pesa don’t reflect for a few days.
The menu is also on one’s phone and can be accessed by checking *348#  and each use of the card is confirmed by an SMS to one’s phone. 

Mobile & Card Payments across East Africa

A new unsecured card solution was launched by afb last week that will allow customers to instantly spread the cost of their purchase at participating shops into affordable 6-month repayments. afb have signed up 52 merchants like Baus Optical, Cambridge Opticians, Fabguru Shoes, Kitengela Glass, and local supermarkets (Tumaini, Home Depot, Homemade) and are also signing up other merchant shops where consumers will be able to apply for cards and get them approved & issued in the stores ahead of making a purchase.  afb settles the transaction amounts directly into the retailer’s bank account, and the customer makes repayments via M-Pesa. afb next hope to venture into loans and insurance in Kenya.

How large is the card market? A Central Bank of Kenya reports showed that there were 9 million debit cards and 140, 000 credit cards in use in Kenya in 2012.

In terms of mobile money, CBK data showed that 21 million Kenyans moved Kshs. 141 billion ($1.65 billion) via 53 million mobile money transactions during February 2013.

CBK has also come up with new mobile money rules that target money laundering. They require that operators link different accounts opened by a user with a single ID card, flag accounts that move more than Kshs. 100,000 (~$1,175) per day or 300,000 (~$3,530) per week, have audit trails, institute systems to handle customer complaints and retain transaction data for 7 years. 

KCB and Western Union who have an account-based money transfer service (ABMT) in Kenya will extend it across East Africa this week, enabling KCB customers to receive money from Western Union directly into their accounts.

Kenya Airways has a 1.5% fee on all credit card transactions (owing to high processing bank charges).

Following a spate of fraud incidents last December, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) has launched an ATM safety campaign dubbed “Be Alert” or “Kaa Chonjo” which include tips such as cover the PIN’s with their hands (at ATM’s), and not sharing PIN numbers with anyone (including spouses). 

KBA also announced the shift by Kenyan banks to the new Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) technology to ensure better security of cards.

90% of KenyaPower pre-paid electricity tokens are now purchased using #Mpesa – according to a Safaricom Business ad.

Diners can now pay restaurant bills via M-Pesa under a new partnership between Kopo Kopo, Eat Out and Safaricom. Restaurants accept payments at 1.5% per transaction.

MasterCard and Equity Bank introduced PayPass enabled debit cards in 5 African markets which will enable merchants to receive payments via low-cost add-ons linked to applications on their mobile devices (such as a smartphone or tablet) 

Mastercard and I&M Bank launched a multicurrency (Dollars, Pounds, Euros) prepaid card which enables users to load up to $10,000 and make foreign currency purchases without incurring exchange rate or other charges.

MasterCard also released a study called the MasterCard African Cities Growth Index that showed that Accra, Lusaka and Luanda offer the highest growth potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. Other ranked cities included Dar es Salaam (4), Addis Ababa (5), Nairobi (6), Kampala (7), Johannesburg  (8), Cape Town (11), Mombasa (12), Lagos (13),  and Khartoum (19).

Credit reference bureaus like CRB Africa and Metropol are expanding across East Africa.

The inaugural Mobile Money Africa Awards will be held in Johannesburg next month, to award the best mobile money app, mobile banking service, and mobile money platform for Africa, among others.  

Nation Hela launched last year has 8,000 active cards in use.

With PesaPal, Kenyans in the Diaspora can send school fees payments directly to 12,000 schools in Kenya using their credit cards (no need for money transfer service). 

Shell Kenya have a visa card promotion to encourage motorists to swipe their cards and pay for fuel The platform is powered by Equity Bank POS at all Shell stations, and station owners are not charged commissions for card sales (Shell pays all commissions).

Tangaza321 is said to be the second largest mover of mobile money behind M-Pesa. The Tangaza system uses biometric data (fingerprints) as many customers don’t possess national ID cards and allows them to send money across all networks, even to people who don’t have mobile phones.
A team with the University of Nairobi’s University Students Community Organization (Uniscoo)  has developed a prepaid card for university students. Uniscoo which has 25,000 students seeks to encourage good money management among students through the use of the prepaid card powered by MasterCard.

Nation Hela to revolutionize remittances & debit cards in Kenya?

On August 15, 2012, Kenya’s Nation Media Group (NMG) launched NationHela in partnership with Diamond Trust Bank and Craft Silicon. NationHela had been first unveiled the previous week, when NMG announced 14% revenue growth to Kshs 5.8 billion and a 23% rise in profits of Kshs 1.37 billion and an interim dividend of Kshs 2.50 per share  for the first half of 2012.

Why NationHela? For NMG that has millions of online newspaper readers every month, a good fraction of who are in the diaspora, and who also send remittances to Kenya, the platform is a chance for them to send money without leaving their computer (or logging off the newspaper site)  – by entering debit or credit card numbers to send to a Kenyan phone number. 

At the launch, a Central Bank of Kenya a figure was cited of remittances of $590 million in the year  to June (up from $409 million the previous year) through formal money transfer channels.

Senders also get value as NationHela can be 30% cheaper overall (charging $12.5 to send $200 compared to $15 for other services), while for  the recipient it knocks out the necessity of taking a matatu (vehicle) to town or finding a Western Union agent to withdraw cash. 

 Diamond Trust who are the 7th largest bank, and the largest agents of Western Union in Kenya, handled the banking regulatory and approvals, and will also do the back office processing of money movement, agents, currency exchanges, float etc., while Craft Silicon provided the mobile interface (familiar to anyone who’s used their Elma) through which users will access Hela by USSD on a mobile phone to get notifications, send or receive money through mpesa to other card users, pay some utility bills, block a lost/stolen card, see a mini statement /balance among other features.

Some cited uses of the card include:
– Make online purchase as a visa debit card
– Move money to or from mpesa
– Withdraw cash at any ATM via visa
  Use the debit card in a supermarket to make payments

Other future or potential uses include:
    Pay dividends straight on to cards (maybe starting with Diamond Trust and NMG shareholder)  
     Kenyans with paypal can move their online money on to the card and cash out payments
– Senders will also be able to too how card recipients use the money they have sent (perhaps answering along standing issue about misuse of remittances 
  Take NationHela to Tanzania and Uganda where both the Nation and Diamond Trust are
   Pay staff travel  allowances and imprest at companies (said to happen at NMG)
 
Outlook Some concerns have been expressed, that NationHela may not work out, or that it’s going to distract NMG  from it’s core media business. Also the web interface needs some tweaks to make the card easier to work.

While the awareness and usage of debit and credit cards in Kenya has been low, for NationaHela there  are plans for online education & marketing campaigns targeted at the diaspora, combined with road shows and town hall meetings around Kenya to register users, convert agents, and show how to use it on a day to day basis – and we’ll see where they are in a year.