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Kenya's mobile payment market seems to be leading the way once again. The country that gave us mobile money scheme M-PESA recently saw the launch of M-Shwari, a more "traditional" banking product aimed at the unbanked.
With M-Shwari, users can do more than make transactions: They can save money, earning interest on their deposits, and can also borrow small amounts of money — all through their cellphones.
Launched in November, M-Shwari can already boast transactions worth more than KSh1 billion ($11.6 million), according to a story from Africa Review. The transactions include KSh123 million ($1.43 million) borrowed and KSh976 million ($11.35 million) deposited in the virtual "bank."
The story said the product is especially popular with young Kenyans between the ages of 25 and 35.
"We are overwhelmed at how well the product has picked up and the show of confidence from our customers," said Jeremy Ngunze, chief executive at the Commercial Bank of Africa. "This product will clearly change the game in the local financial sector."
Run by Safaricom, which is 40 percent owned by U.K. wireless carrier Vodaphone, M-Shwari's funds are held by the Commercial Bank of Africa. Safaricom also operates the M-PESA service, which has more than 15 million users.
When Safaricom launched M-Shwari, it estimated that more than KSh 300 billion ($3.5 billion) is held by Kenyans outside the formal banking system.
For more on this topic, visit the mobile banking research center.
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