Category Archives: SME solutions

Caritas MFI Bank Launched

Thursday saw the official launch of the Caritas Microfinance (MFI) Bank in Nairobi. Caritas MFB,  which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, was licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya in June 2015. It has since mobilized almost Kshs 400 million in deposits and advanced Kshs 250 million of loans.

Caritas plans to go from having two branches, now serving 10,000 customers, to five by year-end and increase its authorized agent network from 16 to 50. Already 70% transactions are done using mobile banking and through a partnership with Cooperative Bank, Caritas customers can use Coop Bank ATM’s and visa cards for purchases and this will enable another potential 100,000 “unbanked and under-banked” members of 200 self-help groups in Nairobi and Kiambu counties to access formal banking services.

MFI’s were excluded from the interest cap law of 2016. Other deposit-taking microfinance bank institutions include Choice, Daraja, Ideal (formerly REMU), Maisha, SMEP, Sumac, U&I, and Uwezo. Larger ones include KWFT and Faulu  as well as the Chase Bank-owned Rafiki MFI that was quite large and growing fast. It is independent of Chase Bank but a lot of its future growth is dependent on the outcome of the Chase receivership.

World Bank Reduces Kenya Economic Forecast

A new report from the  World Bank slightly revised down the forecast for Kenya economic growth from the 5.9% achieved last year to 5.5% in 2017. This is attributed to ongoing drought, depressed private sector growth, and rising oil prices while 2016 had low oil prices, tourism recovery, and favourable weather conditions.

At the launch, Central Bank Governor, Patrick Njoroge said the focus should not be on the rate change, but on the medium term in which Kenya’s economy had distinguished itself by its resilience. This comes from Kenya having a highly diversified economy  – a mix of largest export is tea but his tea, and that goes to Egypt (not the UK), the economy has a strong regional focus (25% of exports are to EAC, and 40% to sub-Saharan Africa), a dynamic private sector (that’s becoming more transparency, with good governance & better business models), a well-educated labour force and investments in infrastructure (he said more should be written about the SGR vs. the old lunatic express railway) which will improve the country’s competitiveness. He said that foreign exchange reserves were at an all-time high (5.3 months) and while rains had failed in 2017 and there was a slowdown in bank lending, the risk of Brexit to Kenya was more on foreign direct investment (FDI) side and less on exports.

At the launch, the World Bank also did a report on housing in Kenya titled unavailable and unaffordable that highlighted that there were fewer than 50,000 new houses being built each year compared to an annual demand for 200,000 homes. Also, there’s low financial participation with fewer than 25,000 mortgages in the country, yet mortgages are one of the most secure loans, as people do not default on their homes easily.

The World Bank proposes having a Kenya mortgage refinance company (KMRC) that adapts from other successful models in Malaysia, Morocco (guarantees for 70% of loans) and Nigeria (fully subscribed bond scheme) to see if the number of mortgages in Kenya can go up to 60,000. They also have private-public partnership at Naivasha in Nakuru County to build 1,000 low-cost homes, most of which will be below Kshs 2 million (~$20,000)

Also see a report of an IMF staff visit to Kenya.

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.

CBA Launches Loop Banking

#unbankyourself

The 54-year-old bank continued the journey it started in 2006 with mobile payments (when they helped design, test and support m-pesa) and extended in 2012 with the launch of m-shwari, with another new chapter today.

The launch of Loop extends the transformation of CBA to a digital bank. removed paper. Loop creates a virtual cycle, a digital financial service that combines payments, savings, insurance, credit – into one solution. The account can be opened on a phone app or website, with no paper forms to be filled. Features of the accounts are the Loop app, Loop store, and Loop card – and combined, these enable access to Loop products.

Account owners get access access loans and overdrafts, as well as savings, budget and networking tools to help them grow their net worth and meet their financial goals. The Loop app also helps them control and analyze their spending in support of their financial goals.

The primary target is 20 – 34-year-old entrepreneurs, followed by 35+-year-old established bank customers. One can open a Loop account right on the app or website, and there are six Loop centers (Sarit, in Nairobi CBD, Yaya, Buru Buru, Rongai, and Garden City)

In reading the terms and conditions (T&C’s):

  • Loop is an electronic-only account, and customers won’t get served at CBA branches. This is similar to M-shwari.
  • Agreeing to the T&C’s also grant the bank the right to access a user’s mobile money information from telco’s.
  • To get finance, loan insurance from CBA (from death & disability) is mandatory.
  • A debit card (not a credit card) is provided, which can be loaded, can be used to deposit and withdraw cash at an ATM.
  • Account holders can also sign up for CBA investment products that range from between 3 to 12 months.
  • Any disputes that can’t be settled with bank staff, can only go to mutual arbitration (not a court).

The launch had a nice panel discussion that highlighted the disconnect between bankers and entrepreneurs. 

Fintech Moment in East Africa: AmEx FT Pesalink Bitcoin

Recent events in the fintech (financial technology) payment space in East Africa.

Banks

  • The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) unveiled Pesalink, a digital payments platform that is expected to cut the cost of transactions and transform the way consumers interact with their banks. Pesalink is a fully owned subsidiary of KBA and it will enable customers to make payments between banks in real-time, around the clock, without having to go through intermediaries. It has been approved at Standard Chartered, Co-Operative, Barclays, Commercial Bank of Africa, I&M, Diamond Trust, Gulf African, Guardian, Victoria, Credit, Prime and Middle East banks…“RT @alykhansatchu: .@HabilOlaka says @KenyaBankers will be targeting payments that exceed M-Pesa’s maximum transaction of ($675)”
  • Cooperative Bank: Is a demonstration that the how banks ar moving in the technology space. Kenya’s 3rd bank has adapted to their customers embrace and they enable more customers to use alternative channels for transactions.  They had a valentines’ week promotion to highlight and encourage customers to use alternative channels such as MCo-op Cash (get a loan straight from ones’ phone  at 1.16%  per month and send money to other MCo-op users for free) or at a Co-op Kwa Jirani agent (deposit cash into someone’s Co-op Account for FREE at a Co-op Kwa Jirani agent) or Co-Op cards.
  • KCB will unveil it’s fintech future – a strategy based on a digital finance  in Q2 of 2017
  • Another is EcoBank which launched a new mobile app which integrates Masterpass QR, a mobile payment solution from MasterCard.  It enables customers to send and receive money instantly across 32 other African countries.

Government

  • National Bank has launched cashlite payment solutions suite for county governments, Ministries, Government Agencies, and Departments. The bank has provided a variety of options for payments including mobile money, smart cards, and e-wallet and cash options, aligned with the continuing growth of mobile technology as well as consumers’ expectations for convenient mobile and online payments.
  • Strathmore University has supplied Busia county government with a revenue collection systems called CountyPro® with which the government hopes to grow revenue by 300%. It caters for all the unstructured county revenue sources including parking, market cess and trailer parking.
  • Mastercard is the technology partner for the Huduma Card in Kenya enabling payments for government services.  It is being issued by Commercial Bank of Africa, Diamond Trust, Equity, and Kenya Commercial banks. Kenyans will be able to pay for an array of enrolled Government services such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF) amongst others. 

Cards

  • mVisa will soon be in 10 countries as Visa expands its QR payment service for safe and easy mobile payments in emerging markets. It is already live in India, Kenya (started with Family Bank) and Rwanda, and will soon be available to merchants and consumers in Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam.. (mVisa) allows consumers to use their mobile phones to make cashless purchases at merchant outlets, pay bills remotely and even send money to friends and family members by securely linking their Visa debit, credit or prepaid account to the mVisa application. Also any bank’s mVisa customer – regardless of where they bank – can transact on any mVisa merchant and merchants do not need to invest in POS infrastructure. Visa has partnered with Co-Operative, Family, KCB, and NIC banks.
  • Mastercard commitED to financially include 100,000 Kenyan micro merchants with Masterpass QR, a simple and secure digital payment solution. It will be introduced through various financial institutions. With it, consumers will be able to pay for in-store purchases by scanning the QR (Quick Response) code displayed at the checkout on their smartphones, or by entering a merchant identifier into their feature phones. Masterpass QR is currently being rolled out in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.
  • Safaricom has issued 16,000 Lipa na M-Pesa cards in the pilot phase of a project that will launch later in the year. The Lipa na M-Pesa card uses pin and chip technology…It is also equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) (which will) increases the speed at which customers make payments.
  • Verve: A dozen Kenya banks have partnered with Verve International, Africa’s leading low-cost payment network provider, in their push towards interconnectivity, cardless transact ability, and digital payments. Verve, best known as a card issuer has more than 32 million Verve cards and virtual/digital tokens issued across Africa and Verve is used in 19 African countries.
  • Pesapal adds American Express ​Pesapal integrated American Express into its payment platform on February 27, and  AmEx card holders can now use their cards to​ ​transact on any online payment portal that uses Pesapal. This is especially useful for hotels and other companies in the East African tourism space.  Pesapal which is in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi and plans to expand to Nigeria in 2018 also offers an online booking engine for Hotels called ReservePort that’s used by Serena and Heritage brands.

Remittances

  • Facebook:  Facebook added international money transfers to its chat app. The service comes via London-based startup TransferWise in the form of a Facebook Messenger chatbot and enables transfers to and from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and Europe.
  • Bitpesa:  The company introduced an Africa to China corridor enabling users to send payments from Africa, directly to a Chinese bank account using bitcoin.
  • European choice: How much does it cost to send money from Germany to Kenya?@WehliyeMohamed posted that the global average cost for sending $200 in Q3 2016 was 7.42%, and that It cost him 6.7% to send money to Kenya. Then @MkenyaU answered that it costs 1.5% when he sends €200 from Germany and this reduces to 0.6% when he sends €500. He cautioned that some companies charge zero fees but their exchange rates are horrible as he shared a comparison of a dozen services available to send money from Germany to Kenya.

 

Mobile

  • Safaricom Mpesa: 10-year-old M-Pesa had 6 billion transactions in 2016 and is now in 10 countries – Albania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Romania, and Tanzania. A new feature in M-Pesa will enable users to see the cost of transactions. In the initial phase, customers will be notified of the costs after, and in the second phase customers will receive a pop up message informing them of any charges prior to the transactions, while the third phase will see the service being made available to value-added M-PESA financial products including M-Shwari, KCB M-PESA, Okoa Stima and M-Tiba. The second and third phases of the update will be rolled out in coming months.
  • There have been some calls and reports recommending that M-Pesa be split from Safaricom. This could have happened years ago, but it is more difficult now that M-Pesa is an entrenched and central part of Safaricom today.
  • Tala raised over $30 million in Series B financing, led by IVP and joined by Ribbit Capital.   Tala uses smartphone data to build financial identity ..  mobile app for Android aggregates more than 10,000 different data points on a customer’s device, including financial transactions, savings, network diversity, and geographic patterns, and builds a customized credit score, or financial identity. Tala operates in East Africa and Southeast Asia with its main top markets being Kenya and the Philippines. Tala has delivered more than one million loans totaling over $50 million, and more than one million individuals have accessed the product in East Africa alone. See how Tala compares to other (fintech) / phone-lending apps in Kenya.  Forbes termed this the largest Series B raised by a woman founder in recent memory.
  •  Zeep is a smart and simple mobile platform that helps young people (teens) nurture good  financial habits. They ‘learn by doing’ within the framework of a secure financial environment with guidance from their parents.

Companies to watch

Irish Tech News released a list of 38 Kenya fintech companies to watch in 2017; these include Abacus, BitPesa, Branch, Cellulant, Chura, FarmDrive, Kopo Kopo, M-Changa, Pesapal, Tala and Umati.

Summit

The FT Africa Payments Innovation Summit will take place on 29 March 2017..it will bring together 250 business leaders from various mobile and financial interest groups and explore challenges and opportunities inherent in these developments: from providing greater financial access to un-banked people across the continent to providing new services and opportunities for an emerging middle class.