MTN Uganda’s MoKash expected to revolutionize Small Loans Market

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By Nicholas Kalungi.

MTN Uganda customers are now able to operate mobile-powered savings accounts, earn reasonable interest on deposits and also access/borrow short term loans through the Mobile Money product portfolio.

This comes after MTN Uganda and Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) launched a convenient and innovative mobile financial service named MoKash -#MTNMoKash and #MoKash.  

The Product allows MTN Mobile Money subscribers to save between UGX 1 shillings to UGX 1.6 million, earn interests ranging from 2% to 5% on their savings and also get short terms loans of up to UGX. 1 million repayable within a month.  

The launch of MoKash is a development that not only further reaffirms MTN’s market leadership status in the telecommunication industry but also increases pressure or possibly competition on other financial institutions offering Savings and Loans products particularly Banks, Saccos , Micro Finance Institutions and Loan Sharks.

“If by venturing into #MobileMoney, Telecos evidently injured other Financial Providers, then #MTNMokash is an insult to the injured,” @ronysad suggested via Twitter.   

According to information on the MTN Website, “MoKash provides customers the ability to save and borrow using their phones. Customers can save while earning an interest or take out short term loans at a reasonable fee. The customer does not have to visit any bank to fill out forms. To activate, a customer should dial *165*5# and enter their MTN Mobile Money PIN.”

Uganda’s number one Innovator;

The product pragmatically positions MTN as Uganda’s Innovation leader. Talking Mobile Financial Services (MFS) only; in 2009, they (MTN) were the first mobile operator to launch Mobile Money in Uganda and others followed suit. Today, they are the first telecom to offer a Mobile Phone Loans and Savings Product in Uganda and trust me, their competitors are going to play a catch up game of rolling out related products soon. For that, you and I must always ‘put some respect’ on the MTN brand.

Nonetheless, as we applaud MTN Uganda for another ‘First of the First’ first-class product unveiling, we equally ought to task, somewhat challenge it to rise the Ugandan flag and profile higher through becoming East Africa or perhaps Africa’s leading innovator.

For now and particularly in the MFS sector, MTN is always playing second fiddle to Safaricom. In 2007, Safaricom, a telecom partly owned by Vodafone was the first to launch M-Pesa (Mobile Money) in the World starting in Kenya.  Two years later, MTN launched Mobile Money in Uganda. Again in November 2012, Safaricom and CBA launched M-Swari (Mobile Money Savings and Loans) in Kenya. Almost four years later, MTN Uganda has partnered with CBA Bank to roll out a similar product in Uganda. 

Deepening Financial Inclusion;

Mokash and other soon to be launched Mobile-Based Savings and Loans products (unconfirmed information indicates that Airtel’s Savings and Loans product is almost ready) will foster Financial Inclusion across Uganda through bridging the banked vs. unbanked gap.

As of December 2015, Uganda had about 5 million Bank Accounts shared by at least 25 Banks, compared to the about 20 million mobile phone users, more than half of which were active mobile money users subscribing to either of MTN Mobile Money, Airtel Money, M-Sente and Africell Money. This number only grows.

Considering that a product like Mokash is used through a simple USSD code (*165*5#) accessible on all phones, many in need of small loans will opt for it. Meanwhile, the appetite for similar loans from Banks, Micro Financers, Saccos and Loan Sharks will automatically shrink thanks to their inclusion of multiple paperwork, delayed processing, requirement of much security and high repayment interests!

If you doubt this, M-Shwari’s success story should calm you down.  

As of December 2015, M-Shwari had over 12 million customers, total deposits of KES 7.6 billion (UGX 252.9 billion) and KES 64.5 billion (UGX 21.4 trillion) as total loan amount disbursed just 3 years after its launch.

Further, while addressing the #Pakasa8 Forum on 6th August, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore noted that their M-Shwari product processes a customer loan every “second of the day” through CBA bank. Surely, M-Shwari gets bigger each passing day. 

I am not a braggadocio but truth is; with the exception of ‘Technical Teams, Business Users, Piloting Staff and Selected Customers’ that tested the product before it was rolled on to the market, I have been among the very first MTN MoKash customers. With your permission, allow me to authoritatively note that my first time experience, though limited has been exciting and worthwhile.

Now that #MTNMoKash has been launched, missing lunch or a date is by choice. You have no Cash, MTN will bail you out with a small loan. But guys, remember to PAY!