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Kenyans enjoy easy micro-loans via mobile phones

24 September 2014, 09:06

Nairobi - Kenyan university student Arthur Mahaga has various needs that include buying books, pens, personal effects and meals.

Often, Mahaga runs out of cash to keep him going at the university. He normally informs his brother to send him pocket money, but before the cash arrives, the second year student usually goes to his mobile phone and borrows a small loan.

"I mainly borrow between KES 950 and KES 2000 so that when my brother sends the money through my mobile phone, I return it. I do this because sometimes he takes time before he sends," Mahaga said late on Monday.

The student has been borrowing the loans, which are to be repaid in 30 days at an interest rate of 7.5 percent, through his mobile phone since he entered the university.

Mahaga is among about a million Kenyans who borrow micro-loans easily through their mobile phones from two financial institutions in the East African nation. So popular are the mobile phone micro- loans that Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), one of the financial institutions offering the services, lends 30,000 people each day.

As at the year ending March, CBA, whose service is dubbed M- Shwari, had loaned 89 million dollars, with savings during the period hitting 273 million dollars and users over 800,000.

"I borrow through the mobile phone because it is simple. You do not need security, paper work and a guarantor as financial institutions normally demand. As long as you have been saving consistently or using Mpesa, you will be given the loan that you are supposed to repay in 30 days," explained David Nthenge, an artist.

Nthenge borrows money regularly through his mobile phone, sometimes to buy brushes, paint or canvas.

"A client can ask me to paint for him let's say a portrait and at that time, I do not have money. Instead of going to borrow from a friend, I reach out to my mobile phone," said Nthenge, adding that the highest amount of money he has ever borrowed is 40 dollars.

To borrow money, from as little as 1.14 dollars, one must be a registered Mpesa, a popular mobile money in Kenya, user. CBA runs M-Shwari in collaboration with Safaricom, which operates Mpesa.

One then opens an M-Shwari savings-and-loans account via his Mpesa account. And as long as they have been using Mpesa for more than six months, they would be able to access the loans.

A person who borrows 11.4 dollars would repay 12.2 dollars, with 0.8 dollars being the interest.

Another similar service is dubbed Pesa Mob (more money) by Family Bank. However, unlike M-Shwari, Pesa Mob borrowers must be Family Bank customers to be able to save and borrow through the platform.

Analysts noted that the mobile phone micro-loans have become popular because they have eliminated hurdles many go through when they seek loans from commercial banks.

Also read: CA approves Equity Bank to enter mobile money market

"Another reason they are popular is that Kenyans can now borrow without shaming themselves by going to friends or shylocks. The popularity of the service further shows that Kenyans are in constant need of money," said economic lecturer Henry Wandera.

Wandera noted that the loans are safer than going to shylocks, where interest rates are as high as 50 percent.

 - Xinhua

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