SMEs and Ventures

Chinese mobile money lending apps boost credit to Kenya’s small entrepreneurs

Grace Wangui wakes up every morning to beat the traffic jam as she goes to buy supplies for her greengrocery store in Umoja 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 in the morning.

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

Instead, she relies on the numerous Chinese owned mobile lending applications 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 shillings (46 U.S. dollars) loan after I begin my journey to buy vegetables. Within five minutes I received a message that the money had been sent to my phone,” Wangui told Xinhua on Sunday.

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

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

Kevin Mutiso, chairman, Digital Lender Association of Kenya (DLAK) said that on average the sector provides short-term loans of about 36 million dollars 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 their mobile devices any time and anywhere.

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

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

Catherine Aloo, operates a small fish business in the bustling Mathare informal settlement located on the east of the capital, 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, 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 loan at a bank, 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 give short-term loans within a few minutes.

“I take a loan of 30 dollars 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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