Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) plans to officially launch its Vooma loan product, a platform developed jointly with Chinese telecommunication companies giant Huawei.
Vooma-Swahili word for speed, a payments and settlements platform, is expected to launch this month. KCB pulled the plug on its Mobiloan product on 23rd December 2020. The product was replaced with Vooma, which has since been on a test run ahead of its launch.
Oigara holds the view that rather than fight the tech firms, forging a relationship with the customer is more critical. He says only banks that build early partnerships with big tech firms will see success.
Available figures indicate that Kenya has about 7 million small business, but only about 250,000 are connected to digital payment platforms. KCB is keen to bring this number to a million by the end of 2021.
In the Vooma partnership, Huawei provides the infrastructure while KCB will bring clients the digital services they need.
Many top executives in Kenya’s banking business feel the arrival of global tech firms will suffocate African banks that still rely on brick and mortar branches to reach customers.
But analysts maintain the train has already left the station and that there will be more linkages between mobile money and e-commerce.
These big tech firms are seen as posing a threat to banks in Africa, given their vast financial muscle and the fact that they do not require a banking license and not supervised by local regulators.
But Joshua Oigara says East Africa’s biggest lender looks more prepared for the digital payment platform, as seen through its partnership with Safaricom to develop the KCB-MPESA platform and fuliza, an overdraft facility that allows Safaricom customers to complete their financial transactions even when they do not have enough money in their MPesa wallets.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital financial terrain has evolved with banks partnering with telcos to enable customers to use digital platforms.
“I think KCB has survived the pandemic by migrating its transactions to the digital channels where it already had a competitive edge”, said Oigara.
The lender has moved more than 98% of its transactions from the branches, the lender’s digital transactions rising fourfold since March 2020.
Oigara further noted that 95% of Kenya’s transactions still done in cash, the new battle line for banks and telecommunication companies is in the digital payment space.
He says the lender is keen to move this to 20-30% cash, generating significant transaction income in the process.