Photograph — Living in Hong Kong

Global tech payment platform, Visa has announced plans to launch a mobile banking app for savings and co-operative societies in Kenya. This was announced by the company’s Head of Community Accounts, Douglas Leighton, at the 2019 World Credit Union (WOCCU) Conference. He revealed the digital app development is at Visa’s Dubai-based Innovation Center.

This App is a result of the partnership between Visa and Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives (KUSCCO). Just recently, representatives from some Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (SACCOS) in Kenya accompanied union officials on a visit to Visa Dubai labs, during which the digital app’s development strategy was mapped.

SACCOS in Kenya is an association of co-operative societies authorized to take deposits from and lend to its members. Some of the notable members include Fortune, Universal Traders and Siraji and they are speedily becoming the country’s top lenders.

Although the Kenyan government has made a major improvement in enhancing financial inclusion for SACCOS and small and medium enterprises, there was a need to provide a digital solution that is easy to use and affordable to both SACCOS and members. Hence, Visa’s planned application.

“Though technology has expanded access to finance dramatically, there are still gaps in the market,” WOCCU Vice President of Financial Inclusion, Megan O’Donnell said while commenting on the new app by Visa. “We at WOCCU are working with partners to fill these gaps. We want businesses to come in and create useful services for credit unions.”

Visa’s mobile banking app may be a huge boost for cooperative societies, but it poses a threat to Waumini’s M-Sacco. Launched in 2014, the M-banking platform enables members to make transactions using their mobile phones at the convenience and comfort of their workplaces and homes. M-Sacco provides services like withdrawal, balance inquiry, loan replacement, mini-statement and pin change among others.

With increased competition, however, Kenyans would be better prepared to handle any potential disruption- case in point is Ecocash in Zimbabwe. The Econet-owned mobile money service went down due to a power outage and as a result of the company’s near-monopoly in the local financial system, many commercial activities were affected as it was impossible to make transactions. Moreover, a new mobile banking app for customers provides more options and improved quality of service. 

KUSCCO is the apex body for Kenyan co-operative societies. It has a membership of about two thousand members of the credit and co-operative societies. The union’s Risk Management Services provides SACCOS with a fund that gives them mutual protection against loan losses as well as other financial and technical assistance to benefit the middle and low-income earners both in Kenya’s rural and urban areas.

By Tobiloba Ishola


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