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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Digital credit ease is clouding out cash
across Kenya amid automated service

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- While using her her smartphone to access the web, university student Hilda Atieno found that she has run out of internet bundles.

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 services.

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 digitally.

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 mobile account.

"I had cash in my pocket but the parking fees services have been automated.

"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 businessman.

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 independent firms.

"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 Nairobi.

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.

             

 

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