At least a month from now, in January 2018, M-Shwari users will be able to access the mobile loans and savings facility which network operator Safaricom runs in conjunction with the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), using Safaricom’s smartphone app.
This was revealed today during a press briefing to mark M-Shwari’s fifth anniversary.
M-Shwari launched towards the end of 2012 (I was one of the lucky few to try it out before it went to market) and since then, it has opened doors for other players and as a result, mobile credit facilities in the country have taken a life of their own. 4 out of 5 of the country’s leading finance applications in the Google Play Store, for instance, are out and out mobile loan apps according to the latest data from digital market intelligence platform SimilarWeb.
When we last had a look at SimilarWeb’s numbers, two months ago, things weren’t any different, showing the huge appetite and demand for services similar to M-Shwari’s in the market that has been bolstered by the high mobile penetration rate in the country and eased by Safaricom’s mobile money transfer service M-Pesa.
In the five years of its existence, M-Shwari has managed to net 21 million customers in Kenya and an additional 10 million outside the country in the 4 other African markets where it operates. In that time, Kshs 230 billion has been disbursed with the average loan disbursed per customer being Kshs 3,300. As part of making the service better, M-Shwari won’t just be showing up on the mySafaricom app alone. There are some changes that will be taking place behind the scenes as well. For instance, with the data that use of the service has resulted in its backers getting, users will be rewarded for early payments (a rebate for payments made within 10 days of a loan being provided) and discipline in making payments (i.e. not defaulting). This is important because as a user of the service, it takes ages for one’s loan limit to be adjusted upwards. In fact, I have not had any upwards adjustment in over a year despite being a regular M-Shwari.
While the loan aspect of M-Shwari tends to hog all the attention, the service is actually supposed to be more of a savings facility than a loans facility. At least that is what I remember about it and the marketing around it when it launched 5 years ago. Initially, moving money to M-Shwari meant taking it away from M-Pesa where it could be easily spent to a safe place in M-Shwari. Along the line, Safaricom introduced a “Savings Account” complete with an option to “Lock Savings”. For the savers, there’s Kshs 12.6 billion they have managed to save on M-Shwari.
With an install base of over 1 million on the Play Store, Safaricom and CBA will be hoping that even more users will sign up for the service once it’s included in the app.