Kenyans borrowed a staggering Sh1.2billion every day on Fuliza and M-Shwari mobile loans last year.
NCBA said most of this growth came from Fuliza, a mobile overdraft facility that runs on M-PESA, which recorded a growth of about 25 percent last year.
NCBA Group Managing Director John Gachora said the bank, however, registered a slowdown in M-Shwari loans growth.
“There was a slight reduction in demand for M-Shwari loans. Kids were out of school and this explains it since a lot of them are taken by parents taking children to school,” Mr Gachora said.
He said day traders also take a significant portion of the M-Shwari loans, but in 2020 a number were out of business due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is the first time NCBA is announcing full-year results as an entity following the merger between NIC Group PLC and CBA in October 2019.
“We implemented a robust cost containment plan that reduced operating expenses and contributed to the operating profit increase,” said Mr Gachora.
NCBA Bank financials released on Monday showed that the lender advanced a total of Sh432billion Fuliza and M-Shwari mobile loans, which averaged about Sh1.18 billion every day, and represented a 30 percent jump compared to the Sh330 billion lent in 2019.
The 2019 merger of CBA Bank and NIC Group PLC created NCBA Group, which controls the two popular mobile loan platforms Fuliza and M-Shwari.
Fuliza and M-Shwari loans are offered in partnership with Safaricom, but the bank underwrites the risks attached to the borrowers.
“Digital loans for us speak mostly about M-Shwari and Fuliza. We are the bank for the other half of those two products. We provide the loans,” said Gachora.
“The reason for that high number is because these are short-term loans, so sometimes an individual may take a loan three times on the same week. We count each disbursement as a new loan.”
“We saw about 25 percent growth was in Fuliza loans. We are expecting that to continue beyond this year. There are other products like Stawi that we think if we get them to be well known and accepted, they have growth prospects as well,” he said.
Fuliza was introduced in January 2019 and is popular among low-income earners who take loans of less than Sh2, 000 for their daily needs, with the debt typically settled after sales are made or wages received.
Fuliza charges a one-off fee of 1.083 per cent or 395.2 per cent annualized rate, underlining the high cost of using the short-term credit service regularly.
Most bank and Sacco loans are priced at between 12 per cent and 14 per cent per year, but lock out people without steady income streams.
The NCBA MD said the rise in the lender’s provisions for bad loans is partly attributable to the rise in M-Shwari debt defaults.
“We saw significant challenges on the M-Shwari product last year. It was a big contributor to the (loan loss) provision of Sh20 billion. We had significant stresses,” said Gachora.
NCBA on Monday reported a 42 per cent drop in profit after tax to Sh4.6 billion, the second-biggest drop among top-tier lenders after Absa Bank after it increased its bad loans provisions by Sh20billion.
The lender said it restructured loans worth Sh78 billion and increased credit provision reserves by Sh20 billion to address the uncertain economic environment that continues to persist.