Kenya Reaches Mobile Phone Banking Landmark

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions


Financial transactions and banking with mobile phones have been a Kenyan success story.

Now, one service, M-Shwari, has reached a significant milestone in the history of m-banking (mobile phone banking): it was able to record a billion Kenyan shillings (US $11,926,100) in savings deposits in a month after its launch in November 2012 and reached deposits of Kenyan shillings 2.8 billion (US $33 million) by February of 2013. This outstripped the Kenyan shillings 378 million (US $4 million) in loans lent by the service, reports Daily Nation.

M-Shwari is a mobile phone banking product that allows people to save and borrow money by phone and earn some interest too. The service offers small emergency loans to customers, offering a financial lifeline to people who would have been frozen out of financial services in the past.

There is no need to have any contact with a bank or bother with paperwork. And loans are instant because they are small.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore told the Daily Nation “Trends show that it has become more of a savings service than a lending service. This is what we intended since the beginning.”

As of February 1.6 million customers had used the service.

On top of this success, the pioneering M-PESA ( mobile phone banking platform developed in Kenya by Safaricom is set to roll out across India and help bring banking services to the country’s 700 million “unbanked.”

Both these developments are solid proof that innovation aimed at drawing in the poor into the mainstream economy not only works, it is profitable and exportable.

M-Shwari ( works like this: a customer can save as little as one Kenyan shilling to receive an interest rate of up to 5 per cent. If they want a loan, then they can borrow from 100 Kenyan shillings (US $1.19) to a maximum of 20,000 Kenyan shillings (US $238) for a processing fee of 7.5 per cent which will need to be paid back after 30 days.

By offering greater access to loans, M-Shwari s increasing competition in the banking sector and giving customers a choice.

It joins an ongoing revolution in access to credit for the poor. Powerful mobile phones enable individual depositors and businesspeople to organize their financial affairs and business needs on the phone. This is a revolutionary development in many places where people previously had to contend with poor access to financial services – or no access at all.

M-Shwari and products like it allow people to borrow, save and conduct transactions with family, friends, business partners and customers over their mobile phones.

M-Shwari is a collaboration between Kenyan telecoms company Safaricom and the Commercial Bank of Africa. It is being hailed as an example of how banks and telecommunications companies can cooperate to offer innovative financial products to the country.

For the unbanked in India, the initiative between Vodafone India ( and ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank, has started to roll out the Kenyan M-PESA mobile phone banking platform in India as of April 2013. They are hoping to open up access to banking to 700 million Indians who currently do not have bank accounts or access to banking facilities. The rollout starts in the country’s eastern regions of Kolkata and West Bengal (CNN).

It looks like access to banking services for the poor in the global South will soon undergo radical change with these large-scale initiatives.


1) Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology: Southern Innovator’s first issue broke new ground in its portrayal of a global South awash in innovators transforming how people use information technology and mobile phones. Website:

2) iHub Nairobi: Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. Website:

3) Hubs in Africa: A crowdsourced map of the growing number of African information technology hubs. Website:

4) Appfrica: Founded in 2008 in Kampala, Uganda, Appfrica is an innovative global consultancy specializing in market research studies, custom technology solutions and investment in emerging markets. Website:

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London Edit

31 July 2013

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