Kenya has greatly improved its financial inclusion in the last 15 years. While financial inclusion in 2006 was only 26%, today, 83% of the population has access to at least basic financial services.
These results are spreading to other African countries as well. It’s estimated that West Africa’s mobile phone penetration has doubled over the past decade, with mobile payments and banking driving development.
Likewise, by the end of 2018, there was an increase of 23 million mobile money accounts in the region from the previous year. The categories that are especially benefiting from the use of fintech and digital banking are women, the rural poor, and the displaced.
Kenya’s innovations are truly standards for other African nations and governments, in particular. 24 countries have committed to a Digital Economy Blueprint, following Kenya’s blueprint.
Regulatory sandboxes that equip fintech start-ups, as well as digital banks with a testing environment for their services, are becoming very popular and widespread among African regulators.
Africa is incredibly diverse in terms of sizing, infrastructure, and what’s important for us, the (un)banked population.
Many countries have already seen drastic advances in banking penetration, and in some more mature markets with higher incomes, such as South Africa, Mauritius, or Kenya, banking penetration rates amongst adults are 69%, 90%, and 82%, respectively.
Let’s see what the best digital banks in Kenya are.
Branch is a fintech that makes it easy for Kenyan people to pay, transfer money, save, and easily access loans anytime and anywhere from their phones.
The company has offices in Nairobi and Lagos, but also in India and the United States. Branch operates in India, Tanzania, Nigeria, and, of course, Kenya.
With the Branch app, people can easily pay their bills, receive and send money, and shop online or in-store.
The savings account offers market-leading interest rates with a minimum deposit of KSH 1 and a maximum deposit of KSH 1,000,000,000. The deposits can be made anytime and can be whatever amount you want. Withdrawals are also unconditional.
If you’re interested in a Branch loan, all you need to apply for is your phone number or Facebook account, ID, and mobile money account. The company will also need to access the data on your phone in order to determine your eligibility.
Because everything is automated, the loans are processed in less than 3 hours, with a goal to reduce that to only a few minutes.
The loan sizes range from KSH 250 to KSH 100,000. If you repay loans as scheduled, the amount that you can borrow will increase.
Branch is an innovative fintech that is truly transforming financial services with mobile technology and machine learning, not only in Africa but in Asia as well.
CB Konnect is Credit Bank’s digital banking platform. Credit Bank goes back to 1986 and is a successful brick-and-mortar bank.
The Konnect app is available to old CB and new users. All you need to bank with Konnect is to access a phone that is connected to either Safaricom or Airtel Networks. To access the app, dial *669# or download it from Google Play Store and App store.
With the app, you can:
- Send money via PesaLink
- Pay bills
- Open an e-wallet account
- Access loans
- Use M-Pesa
- Purchase Airtime
- Get salary advance
- Access insurance services
- Manage debit and prepaid cards
- Receive account alerts
However, CB Konnect isn’t only interesting to personal customers. Businesses can also avail of many services. For instance, Konnect E-commerce will enable them to collect payments via their online platforms through mobile money and card payments.
And Konnect2Bank is a solution that allows Credit Bank Merchants to collect funds via M-Pesa, Airtel Money, and PesaLink directly to their bank account.
Prepaid cards let you load money easily and safely carry out transactions at any ATM, POS, or e-commerce website. It’s a simple load-and-transact card that you can use to shop, dine, fuel, and pay for services anywhere in the world.
DTB 24/7 is the revamped mobile banking app from Diamond Trust Bank Kenya Limited (DTB). The app provides an enhanced user experience that enables DTB account holders to bank on the go wherever they are secure.
Although not an independent digital bank, Diamond Trust Bank’s app still played a vital role in bringing bank accounts to many unbanked people of Kenya due to it being easy to use and accessible from anywhere with a smartphone.
With DTB’s app, you can:
- View your bank accounts details
- Securely authorize transactions via a pin or by using fingerprints
- Utility bills appear 5 days before bills are due for payment
- Access and select beneficiaries of mobile money transfers
- Purchase Airtime
- Personalize your app by uploading a custom profile picture
- Scan and pay at participating merchant outlets with Masterpass QR
- Transfer funds to other banks via RTGS or PesaLink
- Locate all branches and ATMs close to your current location
- Initiate and stop checkbook requests
Equitel is a mobile network operator competing with Safaricom’s M-Pesa. It’s at the forefront of financial inclusion by offering a full suite of banking services on mobile phones and other devices.
Equitel is a new type of hybrid firm – a telecom company developed by a well-known bank – Equity Bank. It collaborated with international telco Airtel to develop a revolutionary product and then sent agents all over the country, even to remote areas where other banks and telcos had not ventured, to display the app’s usage.
Equitel captured more than 22% of the mobile money market in merely five years through this locally-immersed approach.
Safaricom, the telecom giant, which contributes 5% of the country’s GDP, developed M-Pesa in 2007. M-Pesa is basically a money transfer service that also functions as a mobile bank or wallet. The beauty is that there’s no need for an internet connection.
M-Pesa combines Safaricom’s mobile infrastructure plus agents. There are more than 110,000 agents throughout Kenya and even more outside. People can therefore conduct transactions in person or via their mobile phones. The whole system runs on technology similar to text messaging and has expanded to ten countries.
To be fair, M-Pesa isn’t a real digital bank, but then again, neither are some others on this list. The digital banking market in Kenya is still in its infancy, and the principal lies in the hands of traditional banks and other tech companies and not newly developed fintechs.
M-Pesa is, however, one of the innovative tools that came from the collaboration of the telecommunication and banking sectors in East Africa.
It also makes it possible for unbanked and underbanked people to pay for and receive goods and services via their mobile phones instead of going to a brick-and-mortar bank.
UBA dates back to 1948 when the British and French Bank (BFB) initiated business in Nigeria. UBA, like most other traditional banks, now offers internet and mobile banking.
The mobile app looks good and has most services that the bank offers in its branches.
Apart from personal accounts, UBA also offers banking services to businesses:
- SME Banking
- Transactional Banking
- Corporate Accounts
- Trade Finance
- Treasury Products
- Loans and Financing
For people that are looking to open a UBA account, there are current and savings accounts. A UBA Current Account is appropriate for everyone, no matter if they’re employed, self-employed, craftspeople, or living outside of Kenya.
Pay as you go current account lets you pay only for transactions you carry out. With no ledger or maintenance fee, you only pay for what you use. There are also the following features:
- Opening balance of KES 1000
- No operating balance
- No monthly fees
- One fee applicable for all transactions
- Unlimited withdrawals via cheque and ATM
- No charge on transfers between UBA accounts
- No fees for account statements
- Access to online statements
- Debit card available
Digital Investing and Savings Apps
Apart from digital banks that let you open a current and/or a savings account, transfer money, spend it with a QR code, virtual and debit cards, there are two apps that are a bit different – they let you easily invest your money.
They’re also two fintech companies that were a part of the CMA’s regulatory sandbox that lets fintech companies test the application of technology to financial services.
Chumz has been developed by Moneto Ventures and Nabo Capital. According to the company, Chumz is an app that lets anyone with a mobile money wallet create financial goals, and work towards meeting them.
Once a person registers an account, they will be able to create and manage saving goals as an individual or in a group of people.
The app sends prompts to the user to invest towards their goal and offers advice on investing established on spending patterns.
You can also save on autopilot by moving a chunk of money when you spend or receive mobile money, as well as see your savings performance in detailed reports with suggestions for improvement.
Many Kenyans express the desire to invest; however, there are barriers to investing, including lack of commitment, being crushed by expenses, and withholding savings for instant gratification. Hopefully, apps such as Chumz will help them save and invest more.
Koa is a mobile app that helps everyday people save and invest in the capital markets quickly, conveniently, and affordably. You don’t get to choose where your money is being invested, but the company promises a hefty 8-10% p.a. compounded daily.
That means that your money starts earning interest 24 hours after the deposit, and you will see a transaction of interest added to your account daily in your transaction history. You can also withdraw this amount at any time.
You can also choose to save for something specific like a vacation, emergency fund, car, or you can simply put your money away for no particular reason and start earning interest every day.
According to the company, your money will be invested in regulated products such as:
- Collective investments schemes (Money Market Funds)
- Fixed deposit accounts
- Shares and bonds publicly traded on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (Investment Products)
Benefits of Digital Banking
Digital banking has many benefits and advantages over traditional banking done in person or even online. Traditional banks typically charge you for having an account with them and these fees can make them out of reach for too many people.
In underdeveloped and emerging markets such as many countries in Africa, banking was generally reserved for high-income earners. That left millions of people unbanked and underbanked.
However, with digital banks, that is quickly changing as digital bank accounts that fintech companies offer are usually free or have at least one plan free, have almost no other fees, and are easily accessible via a mobile phone.
Traditional banks also offer meager savings interest rates, while digital banks offer amazing rates as a way to attract new customers.
You see, brick-and-mortar banks can easily access cheap money from central banks and other ways. They also have many expenses that digital banks don’t have (physical branches and offices, more employees…).
Digital banks need your deposits because they are fairly new and need to show progress to their investors.
The digital banking space in Kenya is developing rather quickly, with both incumbents and newcomers looking for a share of the pie.
More and more fintech companies are cropping up every year, offering their digital bank accounts, savings and investing apps, loans, and everything in between.
However, the conventional banks in Kenya still have an advantage with their online and mobile banking apps that offer some of the benefits of fintech-led digital banks, but not all.
Many of these traditional bank accounts that were digitized are still too expensive for many, but even so, the number of unbanked people in the country has been decimated.
SMEs often didn’t have a bank account because of banks’ massive fees, and now the fintechs lure SMEs to their side with free accounts and many handy features and benefits.
Investing is also opening up to everyday people that don’t have much money to invest, to begin with. Nevertheless, very low minimum deposits are becoming the norm, and fintech companies are getting tens of thousands of people to invest and save, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
The future of digital banking in Kenya is definitely looking bright, and the country has set an example and a model for the rest of Africa for sure.