NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
While using her her smartphone to access the web,
university student Hilda Atieno found that she has run out of
Not keen on leaving the house to buy
mobile airtime in cash from a nearby shop so that she can load
it and purchase the internet bundles, Atieno reached for a
service on her phone to borrow digital cash.
In about a minute, Atieno borrowed 200 Kenyan shillings
(about 2 U.S. dollars) which was wired into her phone; she used
the money to buy internet bundles to continue with browsing.
Atieno’s experience is shared among thousands of other
Kenyans as the convenience of digital borrowing slowly takes
precedence over cash amid increased digitization of financial
Many Kenyans are borrowing from digital platforms to carry
out various transactions despite having cash in their pockets.
This is because the mobile agents, where they can deposit the
money in their phone accounts for them to access the services,
may be far or out of reach at a particular time.
Most Kenyans now pay for electricity and water bills, bus
fare, hospital charges, shopping, parking and school fees
The national and county governments, telecommunication
companies, supermarkets, taxis and utility firms are some of the
institutions that have digitized their services.
While some of the institutions are accepting both cash and
digital payments, most government departments only take cashless
payments, making Kenyans borrow digitally to complete
transactions that include payment for birth certificates,
driving licences and taxes.
On one Friday, Gilbert Wandera parked his vehicle in
Nairobi’s central business district, and as he reached his phone
to pay for the space, he realized he had less money in his
"I had cash in my pocket but the parking fees services have
"I did not want to leave the car to go look for a mobile
agent to deposit money since my car would have been clamped
down, leading to more charges," recounted Wandera, a
Left with no choice, he borrowed from a digital platform and
completed the transaction before leaving the car for the office.
Popular digital lenders in Kenya include Fuliza, KCB-Mpesa,
Tala, Equitel, M-Shwari, Branch and Timiza, ran by banks and
"I am a big fan of Fuliza," said journalist Kenfrey Kiberenge.
"It helps beat those evil City Council parking inspectors who
can’t allow you even a minute to load Mpesa."
Fuliza, run by Kenya’s leading telecoms firm Safaricom and
launched in January, has become one of the most popular lenders
in the east African nation.
Safaricom said on Friday that it had lent out an equivalent
of 450 million dollars in three months.
Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), which runs KCB-MPesa in
conjunction with Safaricom, said it lends out 3 million dollars
daily, while Equity Bank’s Equitel and Commercial Bank of
Africa’s M-Shwari also reported similar success.
"Digital loans surge is certainly riding on two
things—convenience that comes with it and increased automation
of services," said Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in
Over 7 million Kenyans are digital borrowers, with more than
half of them being repeat borrowers, a recent joint survey by
the Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics
and FSD-Kenya shows.