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Mobile lending apps help East African entrepreneurs pay bills

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-07-27 10:01
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A visitor poses for a photo on April 15, 2019, during a new Infinix cellphone launch ceremony in Nairobi. [Photo/Xinhua]

NAIROBI-Grace Wangui wakes up early each morning to beat the traffic as she goes to buy supplies for her grocery store in a residential estate.

The 30-year-old mother of two purchases fresh vegetables from vendors at Wakulima market, Nairobi's largest wholesale market for fresh produce.

However, Wangui cannot access bank credit due to a lack of formal employment or collateral.

Instead, she relies on the numerous Chinese-owned mobile lending apps in Kenya such as Okash, Opesa and Credit Hela, which she can access through her smartphone.

"I typically make an application for a 5,000 shilling ($46) loan after I begin my journey to buy vegetables. Within five minutes I receive a message that the money had been sent to my phone," Wangui told Xinhua News Agency in early July.

Wangui has been using the Okash app to finance her daily operations since early 2020.

"The app has enabled me to have a constant cash flow and pay my suppliers on time," she added.

Kevin Mutiso, chairman of the Digital Lender Association of Kenya, said that on average the sector provides short-term loans of about $36 million per month in the east African nation.

Mutiso said that the proliferation of smartphones in the market has boosted their business as consumers can now apply for loans using mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

He added that mobile apps have the technology to assess the creditworthiness of loan applicants within a few minutes and this has revolutionized the credit industry-especially for small entrepreneurs who had previously been locked out of formal financial channels.

According to the DLAK, there are currently 6 million digital loan customers in Kenya.

Catherine Aloo operates a small fish business in the bustling Mathare informal settlement located in the east of the capital of Nairobi.

Aloo said that she uses the Credit Hela app to access quick cash to meet her daily needs.

"Most of my customers take my fish on credit and pay at the end of the month, and this leaves me cash strapped. So I depend on mobile loans as I wait for payment from my clients," she added.

The fishmonger noted that without assets to use as security to access a bank loan, she relies on digital mobile lending platforms for credit.

Gideon Okeyo is a street vendor who sells belts for a living in Nairobi's upmarket Gigiri area.

Okeyo said that his business model is viable due to his access to mobile digital platforms that provide short-term loans within a few minutes.

"I take a loan of $30 in the morning and with the proceeds, I purchase leather belts from a wholesale shop in town, which I sell to middle-class clients by evening so that I can repay the loan on the same day," he said.

Okeyo has been using the Opesa mobile app and he hopes to increase his credit limit by repaying his microloans on time.

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