Category Archives: Google

Google bans short term loan adverts

Google just announced some changes to their adwords rules . They often review these, and the ads that they support, and  in 2015 alone, (they) disabled more than 780 million ads for reasons ranging from counterfeiting to phishing. 

The main change is that they will be banning payday loans and loans whose repayments are less than 2 months (i.e short term) as..research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that.

Short term loans are increasing in volume in Kenya, thanks to the mobile phone penetration. This week, both Equity Bank and Safaricom released financial results and there were some interesting notes about short term loans, mainly via phone.

  • Safaricom M-Shwari: had Kshs 10.0 billion loans at year-end (March 31).
  • KCB – MPESA loans were Kshs 1.47 billion.
  • One million people have taken mobile phone loans at Equity Bank, totaling about Kshs 4 billion. The loans are  now one month in duration, and they will progressively increase this to 3 months, then 6, then eventually one year as they get better at understanding their users, after profilng, and checking their credit (with credit reference bureaus). The loans are  approved within a few seconds of applications and disbursed directly to the borrowers mobile phones.

The banks don’t have to advertise these loans on google, as the are right in the user menu of every phone.

$1 = Kshs 100

Cashless Bus Payments from Google & Equity Bank

Someone said that a matatu owner is the seventh or eighth person to get paid at the end of a busy day, only getting residual cash after the driver, turn boy, tout, tax man, council person, policeman, and sometimes the driver’s girlfriend have taken their cut. But on Tuesday, April 30, Google and Equity Bank unveiled BebaPay, a cashless way for commuters to pay for transport in buses in Kenya – and which propels owners right to the front of that queue.

The transport sector has many challenges and is known for some unpleasant habits like reckless driving, price hikes when it rains, bribing traffic police, ill-treatment of passengers, having unroadworthy vehicles etc. – but some investors who purchase the vehicles that can cost an average of Kshs. 4 million ($47,000) believe that a common thread behind these habits is the amount of liquid money that the sector generates and which is easily diverted to make many payments, even illegal ones.

BebaPay enables commuters to pay their fares by using a card, which is then tapped to a phone in the bus enabling exact payments (even small ones like Kshs 20 [~$0.25] to be deducted from the user’s card and uploaded into the owner’s accounts that are at Equity Bank.

Currently, many owners only get to know how much money they have earned at the end of the day, but with BebaPay they are able to monitor their cash receipts online or via Equity banks’ mobile phone platform – Eazzy247.

Another feature is that users who purchase & register cards will get SMS notifications each time the cards are used – and this can be useful for parents who send their kids to from school on public transport to track when and where their kids pay for transport using the card. Also, users can send money to people on buses to pay for transport, and the system will also link with M-pesa which is ubiquitous in Kenya.

Obtaining a free BebaPay card takes about 20 minutes at an Equity bank agent – this is to enable them to take down ID and Gmail details (even create a new one), and to create a BebaPay account in which a commuter inputs a password. This enables one to get an SMS notification each time the card is topped up and to monitor their card activity online.

Other Comments at the Launch

  • The Chairman of the Matatu Owner’s Association said he expects some resistance to the changes. He also called on the government to institute training for people who work in the sector and for legislation to eliminate cash payments for transport.
  • One vehicle owner said that gangs run bus stages in downtown Nairobi and have to get paid daily before a bus is allowed to stop & pick passengers.
  • The Equity Bank CEO said the public transport sector is the bigger consumer of notes & coins and that handling all that cash comes with costs & risks that can be eliminated with BebaPay.
  • The Deputy President of Kenya said cash-less payments that go directly into business people’s accounts will enable banks to lend based on cash flow, rather than collateral.
  • The two permanent secretaries (who currently double as acting ministers) both revealed their past unsuccessful attempts to invest in the matatu business.
  • The Nairobi Governor said that the government will train new traffic marshals to manage traffic at roundabouts which will create employment for the youth and free up policemen for other duties.
  • Every day, 1.5 million Google Android phones are activated and 1.5 million Kenyans use matatus.

Other Reading:

  • Bloomberg: Major banks in Sweden have stopped handling cash in many of their local branches as many people rely on credit cards, the Internet and mobile phones to make all their payments…bank notes are only used in about 20% of shop transactions. 
  • The official Google Africa blog notes that BebaPay uses smart cards powered by Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, plus software from Google. The NFC technology means that payment can take place offline, even when there is no power or network connectivity.
  •  Juuchini blog asks Is Kenya ready for public transport debit cards?
  • Quartz: It is becoming increasingly inaccurate to call Google an internet company and the free BebaPay app turns any NFC-enabled Android phone into a card reader, which means that shops, traders, and small businesses can use BebaPay to accept payments from customers, without needing expensive tills and cash registers. 
  • Think M-Pesa: Is Google trying to replicate m-pesa?

Idea Exchange: TED Global, Richard Branson, Student Opportunities

The 2011 Africa Awards ceremony take place in Nairobi on December 8 and reward entreprenual excellence & efforts. This year the odds are strong that the winners of the total $400,000 of funding prizes won’t be Kenyans as the nominees shortlisted are soleRebels, – Ethiopia, Unique Solutions – Gambia, Expand Technology – Mauritius, Chocolate City Group , FASMicro, and Pepperoni Foods (3 from Nigeria) Cellular Systems International – Senegal, Victoria Seeds – Uganda, Securico – Zimbabwe and InvesteQ – Kenya.

The Awards are held in conjunction with Convergence Africa also in Nairobi on the same day and which features Richard Branson among other speakers and leaders.

Africa Leadership Academy: The world famous school in South Africa is taking on the next crop of students leaders. Application details are online and the Deadline is 12 December 2011.

Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund: Has a new round of financing for renewable energy and climate adaptation technologies. It is aimed at for-profit companies with eligible projects in the East Africa region and Funding will be in the form of grants and repayable grants of between US$ 250,000 to US$ 1.5 million. Details here.

Google Photography Prize: Google + is seeking photographs submitted in ten categories (main ly by university students). More details.

NetFund: Identify individuals, educational or community institutions with project, initiatives or campaigns that contributes towards environmental management and are worthy of an award. Details here and deadline is January 30 2012.

Reuters Business News Workshop Fellowships: This is a five-day course in London next year, that is open to as journalists or regular contributors to print, broadcast or online media organizations. D/L November 25 (Found at Yipe)

TEDGlobal 2012 takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland in June 2012 with 50-plus speakers and performers from all over the world. See registration details.

Edit

Australia Awards: The Government of Australia has scholarships to Kenyans in priority development sectors. They include masters levels (D/L Feb 28) and short term professional development (D/L 16 December). More details here.

Chevening Scholarships: The Chevening Scholarship Programme for Kenya 2012-13 is now open for applications. It facilitates post graduate study program in the UK available for up to 12 months or for short courses or research. details here and the deadline is Jan. 23, 2012.

CNBC Africa: Top Trader is a new reality television show that will in 2012 follow the trials and tribulations of Africa’s top amateur traders> The competition is now open to public; there are more details on CNBC Top Trader and the D/L is Jan 21.

FiveByTwenty program of the Coca Cola company to create five million women entrepreneurs in the coca cola ecosystem by 2020. The pilot had 100 young women trained in Nairobi in financial & distribution training and become sales partners and more are invited to apply to coca cola 5 BY 20 technoserve as producers, suppliers, farmers (project nurture) etc. if they meet some criteria.

Google Africa Internships: This is a continuation of their summer internship program, now open for new applicants, and more Google Internship details can be found at the Africa blog.

Pasha: Latest round of funding from the Kenya ICT Board. Details here and D/L is Dec 3.

CNNMultiChoice African Journalist 2012 Awards. Details here and D/L is Jan 26.

Urban Inflation Index: September 2011

One year after the euphoria of a new constitution, the direction of the economy is uncertain as seen in the weakening Kenya shilling, tangles in implementation of the constitution, and rising food prices. It has been a year of some price controls in the fuel, and possibly in the food sector whose parliamentary price control bill was signed into law last week by the President.

Comparing prices to six months ago and last year. On to the index

Gotten Cheaper: Nothing really.

About the same:

Communication: All Kenya’s mobile phone companies have call rates of about Kshs 3 shillings ($0.03) per minute to call across networks. It is unclear what will happen with call rates, as the smallest company in the market, Yu, launched free daytime phone calls, Airtel Kenya lost a CEO, and Safaricom has indicated that they may raise their call rates, as has happened in Uganda with MTN . The real battle is in data, where prices have not really dropped but companies are offering more speeds for less. The market here is divided between the companies with 3G (Orange & Safaricom) who compete on speed, and those without 3G(Airtel & Yu) who offer cheap internet rates of about Kshs 50 (~$0.5) per day for unlimited use.

Another communication developments that, in a way, lower the cost of business include the launch last week at G-Kenya of GKBO, which encompasses free website creation tool, domain registration, and site hosting for small companies by Google in Kenya.

Utilities: The bill on pre-paid electricity is still at about Kshs 2,000 ($21) per month, and getting about 30 – 35 units per buy via M-Pesa. However that is expected to go up after notice was issued for rates to go up 22% per kwh unit. So what alternatives are there? In a somewhat timely move, Samsung launched the NC215, a solar powered netbook laptop last week. It gives 1 hour of power for every 2 hours of charge in the sun, has a 15-hour battery life, and is able to charge other devices by USB even when it is off.

Also got a gift of a solar phone charger (T2126 Hemera from Hirsch) that works quite well; it takes about 12 hours to charge in the Sun or 2 hours via USB, has a flash light and can charge a variety of phone models.

But when you look at the rapid advances in laptop batteries and cell phone batteries over the lasts decade, you get the feeling that there has been a lag in the pace of solar devices, and that more solar based solutions and advances should be emphasized.

More Expensive

Fuel: A litre of petrol fuel, which is regulated by the Government, now costs 117.75 (~$5.6 per gallon) in Nairobi. Regulated fuel has proven to be more expensive than unregulated fuel, and while this can be attributed to the weaker shilling and fluctuating oil prices, the formula used to arrive at the price remains vague, and the limit on margins (stipulated buying and selling price of petrol, diesel, kerosene in each town) appears to have hurt small oil industry companies, more than large ones. However, among the listed companies, Kenol appears to have weathered the regulatory regime better than Total, by having diverse operations in other countries in East and Central Africa that remain unregulated.

Staple Food: Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily. A 2kg bag which cost Kshs. 80 six months ago, and Kshs 65 a year ago, is now Kshs 119, the highest it has been in the short history of this index.

Other food item: Sugar : A 2 kg. Mumias pack which has hovered at about Kshs 200 for the last years, now costs Kshs. 385 (90% more than last year) and . The sugar sector has really gone full circle causing many to questions its relevance, recurring shortages shortage (why all factories close at the same month for maintenance), why sugar is grown in a food producing area and how many items we can consume without having to use sugar as a sweetener e.g. tea without sugar, or use of honey as a substitute.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs 95.6 compared (now 96.8) to Kshs 80.8 a year ago (and 83 in June 2011) – a loss of almost 20% in a year. It’s unclear of this has been a concern to the Central Bank which has made other confusing policy moves as related to interest rates at a time of mounting government debt and their laxity has enabled banks to spot and take advantage of an arbitrage opportunities to trade with government money.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 180 ($1.9) (at a local pub) a slight increase from compared to Kshs. 170 a year ago. However beer has become out of reach for many poorer Kenyan who have resorted to drinking unsafe local brews, which in some unfortunate cases have resulted in blindness or even death.

NSE Goes Android

The Nairobi Stock Exchange now has a free Android app. Developed by Verviant, it is rather basic (download page), but show’s the the equity day’s prices changes, and summary of some announcements. Still, it’s a good start, and should be a work in process, and maybe investors will be able to track their portfolio’s (still empty) and drill down to read more comprehensive announcements, and bond prices too.

The Exchange probably needs to address the issue of large PDf statement that companies fax in their announcements and which the NSE scans to their site – and replace these with some basic documents that they can upload to the main and mobile site.

Another NSE geared app is the Rich app (from the Nokia Ovi Store), that is however designed for the Nokia E-7.