Kenya’s Co-op Bank mobile app loans hit Sh8.7 billion

Co-operative Bank says the number of mobile loans it is processing daily doubled in the past year to 1,000 bids in the period to June 2017, highlighting Kenya’s growing uptake of mobile-based lending.

Image result for mobile banking coop bankThe lender attributed this to the ease and convenience of getting credit via the M-Co-op Cash mobile app that has seen the average loan size on the platform grow to Sh19,000 from Sh12,800 in the half-year to June 2016.

Co-op Bank group chief executive Gideon Muriuki said it has so far issued cumulative loans worth Sh8.7 billion through the M-Co-op Cash platform since launch of the app in August 2014.

“The mobile loans are both affordable and delivery is real-time, and accessible via mobile phones,” said Mr Muriuki in an interview.

“We are focused primarily on offering advances for our salaried customers and top-up loans for our business customers with other loan facilities.”

M-Co-op Cash disburses loans of between Sh100 and Sh200,000 repayable within a month, and is available across all mobile money platforms such as M-Pesa and Airtel Money.

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Facebook’s Free Basics app fails at digital equality?

Image result for Free Basics appIn Africa, internet costs are out of reach for most, thus having the internet at a low cost or partially free to access basic vital information is important. Free Basics – a mobile app created by Facebook – has since its 2015 launch been hailed by the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as the “first step towards digital equality” due to its audacious plan to “introduce” millions of people to the internet, many of whom live in developing countries such as Kenya and Ghana.

Facebook claims to be bridging this gap by providing mobile phone users in developing countries with an app that gives them access to a few online services, among them Facebook. This is not the whole internet – it does not allow users to click links or load videos – but it is something.

But while Free Basics may be “free” in terms of money, it comes at another cost that Facebook is loathe to acknowledge, despite concerns raised by digital rights experts and activists. The app gives users access to only a tiny set of services, a clear violation of net neutrality. And it collects data about users and their activities on the app, without telling them how this data will be used.

Despite Facebook’s marketing campaigns, which depict Free Basics as a bridge to the information age, we found a stark difference between what the service is lauded for (mostly by Facebook itself) and how it actually works.

The app shows a lack of understanding of local nuances and needs, bears significant shortcomings in its features, and collects ample data about its users. Read more

Africa Teen Geeks show off coding skills at #Hack4Justice event

he is the founder of Africa Teen Geeks, a Non-governmental Organisation that teaches children how to use software coding successfully. “We have children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those who do not have access to this training at their school. They attend class every Saturday from 8.30am to 1.30pm at Unisa’s Florida campus,”she said.

The training is open to anyone, and they have children from as young as five attending the classes where they are taught the basics of software coding. “We are partnered with Oracle Academy which enables us to offer the learners that are 16 and older the opportunity to obtain their Java certification. We use these classes to prepare them for the Java exams, which are internationally recognised,” she said.

Three of the learners – Neo Radebe (13), Layla Khumalo (13) and Abraham Tsiri (17) – were chosen as the winning team during the recent #Hack4Justice event, a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Education For Justice event.

The event was held over two days at the Unisa Florida campus, and participants had to battle it out at the keyboard and develop educational games focused on justice and rule of law issues.

All three of them were in agreement that they were excited – but also nervous – about participating in the competition. “We did not have any time before the event to work on ideas, we had to come up with an idea, and the completed app during the two days. It was a bit stressful. But we were happy to have won,” Layla said with a big smile.

Lindiwe Matlali, the founder of Africa Teen Geeks. Photos: Adéle Bloem

The group developed a mobile app called Justice Quiz, where users had to choose answers on either abuse or corruption, scoring points for each correct response.

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African Banks not offering desperately needed mobile solutions

In Africa, banking the unbanked remains a pressing need. Roughly 700-million Africans are financially excluded – denied economic citizenship.

Banked: Mobile banking apps favour urban people with access to smartphones, such as this customer of Sidian Bank in the Kenyan bank’s headquarters in Nairobi. Picture: REUTERSDiscussions on the issue raise the same question, time and again: why aren’t traditional banks offering mobile solutions to potential customers who desperately need them?

The American Bankers Association claims it costs between $150 and $250 to open an individual bank account through traditional channels. Over more than a decade, around the world, it has been proven that alternative, disruptive technology such as mobile and branchless banking can reduce this cost by more than 90%, while still complying with local regulations.

Vast parts of Africa remain unconnected. In countries where connections are offered, the cost of data is often sky-high and connections are typically available only in urban areas — not rural areas or the locations of the mass unbanked.

The view of some that unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) — also known as “quick codes” — is dead may well be misplaced.

App-based mobile banking certainly serves a purpose, but it is a far cry from meeting the needs of the mass market in terms of them becoming financially empowered and included.

Traditional banks across Africa need to rethink how they offer mobile banking to the masses — and quickly. The cost of data is out of their control, and shows no signs of being driven down.

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