New-age finance

“Loans For Phones” Look To Right The Many Wrongs Of Digital Lending In Kenya

By  |  September 30, 2022

Smartphones tend to be wrapped in a brand of marketing that makes them out to be consumer luxury in today’s world, hence, it often goes under-acknowledged how even low-end devices can be transformational and even literally life-saving, for what is easily large groups of people.

Take Kendon Kamau, for instance, who at the time of sharing his story with Equal Times in 2017 was a struggling 36-year-old farmer in Kenya whose then 1-year-old son almost died from pneumonia as a two-month-old the year before.

“The hospital could not treat him without the required cash amount of 4,000 shillings (~USD 40.00),” he had recounted. A quick loan from a lending app saved the day, and it might have been a different story had he not owned a device.

“This money also paid for my bus fare to and from the hospital, but most importantly it saved my son’s life,” he had emphasised.

For another local Phylista Wambua, who also shared her story as a 50-year-old mother-of-two making ends meet by selling fresh fruits and vegetables in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, owning a smartphone made all the difference – it enabled her to elevate her business, growing her daily earnings five-fold for the betterment of her family.

“In January last year[2016], I used to make just 800 [Kenyan] shillings a day (~USD 8.00),” she had said. “This year alone[2017], I have received about 50,000 shillings (~USD 500.00) from mobile loan providers,” she had revealed at the time, emphasising that it had enabled her to buy more stock and a greater variety of produce.

“I make good money, especially on kale. On a good day, I now make about 4,000 shillings (USD 40.00) if I can sell all my stock," Wambua had revealed.

Such is the constructive chain reaction that device ownership can yield. Thus, putting smartphones in as many hands as possible across income levels represents an important path to inclusive socio-economic upliftment.

But despite the widespread availability of low-cost, sub-USD 100.00 smartphones, affordability remains a major obstacle across sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world.

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