Buy-Now-Pay-Later with a twist.

Loans-For-Phones: Kenya & The BNPL Schemes That Lock Defaulters’ Phones

By  |  June 14, 2021

After many months of penny-pinching and painful saving, Leo Karanja* was finally able to purchase his first-ever smartphone in the summer of 2013. Although he was just 18 at the time, life had forced him to take to street hawking to fend for himself since his early teens.

Karanja’s purchase was a modest but decent android phone: a TECNO P5. He had always been fascinated by the idea of “being online” with the internet at his fingertips, but this was no vanity purchase.

His biggest motivation at the time, he tells WeeTracker, was “gaining admission into the university.” So his plan was to self-teach himself enough to pass the entrance exams with the materials he had learnt he could find online. And with a smartphone in hand, he seemed on track. Except fate had other ideas.

Fast-forward seven years to 2020 and there’s Karanja trying to keep head above water with a tiny stall that he turned into a barbershop. These days, he gives cheap haircuts in a suburb close to Nairobi. No, the fairytale hasn’t quite happened as “going to college” is still a pipe dream. Plus the now-old-and-battered TECNO P5 has certainly seen better days.

When the device finally gave up in February 2020 after many years of being a loyal servant, Karanja knew he needed another. In fact, he’s known that for a while but money is tight. He just couldn’t afford a smartphone at that time. But he was about to catch a break, or so he thought.

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