Fuliza, the mobile-money overdraft facility by Safaricom has gained quite the traction since its introduction to Mpesa services back in 2019.
On the first week of its launch in January of 2019, it disbursed a little over Ksh.1bn, an impressive feat to over 1 million Mpesa users.
As of the six months leading to June 2021, the borrowing from this overdraft service has now hit an average of Ksh.1.2 billion every day.
In that period since the beginning of the year, Fuliza, whose partners include NCBA and KCB Group, has disbursed 220.38 billion.
The increased demand for this service has grown exponentially, considering only Ksh.140 billion was borrowed for the first 9 months of its operation. As of October 2020 Safaricom was processing 5.73 requests per second.
A few key reasons have been identified as the drivers to the accelerated need for Kenyans to borrow through Fuliza.
The Central Bank Measures
Credit Reference Bureaus were directed by the Central Bank of Kenya to freeze the listing of new non-performing loans by borrowers from April to September and these prompted banks tightened their approval measures for loans.
A move to cushion Kenyans during borrowing worked against them as it became a bit harder to get bank loans.
Consequently, there was increased dependency on the easily accessible Fuliza.
In the same April of 2020, which was at the onset of the covid pandemic, the Central Bank also issued directives that led to a crackdown on popular unregulated digital lenders, barring them from listing with the CRB.
These apps in turn denied many Kenyans from accessing their facilities, turning them towards Fuliza since it is a service already regulated by the CBK.
Listing of defaulters below Ksh.1,000 was also frozen by the CBK, which saw a decline in the number of loans issued by services like Mshwari and KCB.
Mshwari raised their minimum limit from Ksh.500 to Ksh.2,000, a limit that cut out a lot of Kenyans from the service.
Covid and High Cost of Living
Millions of people lost their jobs as companies scaled down operations and workforce size to cope with new measures to curb a novel pandemic period.
Most of these Kenyans had no option but to rely on overdraft facilities as one of the options for a livelihood.
The economy is still yet to recover as restrictions to work and business operations are only slowly easing.
“Fuliza is still on a growth path that is why you see the most growth in digital loans this year is coming from Fuliza. We expect it to grow for quite some time and we still feel there is leeway for growth,” NCBA Group chief executive John Gachora said.