Safaricom has a product in the pipeline called Faraja. Basically, it allows customers to shop from retail stores on a credit. The loan is then paid after a given period, but it does not charge interest.
Now, while it is yet to go fully official, probably due to licensing concerns with the CBK, the product has already raised some eyebrows in terms of how it will be run.
Before we look into these issues, let’s look at how Faraja will work.
First of all, the product will be offered by a company called Faraja Credit. It has, therefore, partnered with Safaricom, and seeks to reward long-term Safaricom customers with yet another channel to accessing credit.
The credit period will vary from a week to a month. Moreover, all you need is a Safaricom SIM card, and you are good to go.
Credit limits will be based on credit viability just like other loan platforms.
That is not all: Faraja will only be available for a maximum of two accounts under one National ID.
Customers can access Faraja as many times as they want, and as far as their credit limit allows.
And just like Fuliza, customers will not be allowed to withdraw cash from their Faraja accounts because as said, the funds are only available for point-of-sale transactions and paying bills.
This means that you can only use Faraja for Lipa na M-PESA and Pay Bill transactions at outlets that allow Faraja transactions.
The outlets can also be found on the Faraja Credit app, which is also in early access at Google Play Store. I have tried to run the app, but it has not been able to opt me in. Therefore, you are better off using the provided USSD.
One of the outlets will be Naivas chain of supermarkets.
Whenever it goes official, customers will only need to dial *799# to see their transactions. They can also pay for one transaction at time convenient to them.
The refunds are billed from your M-PESA wallet. The procedure is the same for 7-day or 30-day loans.
Partial repayments are also acceptable. Earlier payments will see a customer increase their credit limits.
The minimum amount customers access on Faraja is KES 20 and the maximum is KES 100,000, but this is restricted to your approved credit limit.
The credit is available for both Bug Goods and Paybill numbers.
In case you default on the loan, you will not pay any penalties for late payment. However, a late payment will disqualify you from using the product in the future.
Now, this is where things get interesting: Safaricom has since revealed that it will deploy debt collecting agents in case a Faraja credit has not been repaid at the agreed time.
This is the first time that the telco has made this kind of development. Other products such as M-Shwari are not served by such stringent regulations, and in case of a default, Safaricom just lists the affected groups with the CRB.
The changes are also akin to what Safaricom did with Fuliza in late 2021. Specifically, customers have a maximum of thirty days to service their overdraft else the operator will extend its arm, including sourcing funds from a defaulter’s M-Shwari or their KCB/NCBA bank accounts to cover the facility.
At any time after an Event of Default has occurred which is continuing, KCB and NCBA may, without prejudice to any other right or remedy granted to us under any law: hold any of your funds standing in credit with KCB or NCBA as collateral and security for any amounts outstanding and due from you in respect of the Facility or Service – Safaricom changes about Fuliza.
It is going to be an interesting period for customers who use these products. The company already makes a killing from all products associated with its mobile money products, including Fuliza whose revenues have since surpassed what the telco makes from KCB M-PESA and M-Shwari.
Also, let’s not forget the fact that Kenyans have an appetite for mobile loans because they are easy to access, and economic hardships force them to source for credit.
The state has since introduced some sanity in the lending space. The CBK Amendment Bill, 2021 now wants agents working for digital credit providers to never: use of threat, or violence or other criminal means to physically harm the person, or his reputation or property; use of obscene or profane language; make unauthorized or unsolicited calls or messages to a customer’s contacts; use improper or unconscionable debt collection tactic, method or conduct; and any other conduct whose consequence is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.
Will the rule be adhered to? Only time will tell.