Social media is expanding financial inclusion in Kenya


Business leaders within Kenya's financial services space are focussing on social networks as a channel through which to extend offerings to a wider customer base and this, they claim, is helping to promote inclusion.

Social media platforms offer the youth in Africa a chance to learn and connect to financial institutions says Equity Bank Chairman, Dr James Mwangi.

Dr Mwangi made the comments when receiving the OLX Soma Award (Social media award) on behalf of his office.

"With increased internet penetration more people are using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram to research and buy products and services. Financial services offered through the various social networks have begun to take off and this will enhance financial inclusion," he said.

Equity Bank joins a growing list of companies in Kenya that provide customer relationship service over social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, where the majority of young people spend their time.

In August this year, NIC Bank launched convenient banking through Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter. Dubbed NIC KONNECT, customers are able to access services including balance inquiry, mini statements, airtime purchase and funds transfers, using their PIN.

The application uses social media accounts as identity verifiers.

NIC Bank Group Managing Director John Gachora noted that this innovation was as a result of extensive market research which highlighted that Kenyans, especially the youth, are spending more time on social media platforms. There was thus need to interact with customers at their convenience, "where they are."

Another financial institution that is using social media for financial inclusion is Branch. The financial service provider uses Facebook to confirm identity and credit rating. The company launched in Kenya in April offers short term credit through mobile money.

"Branch is using Facebook as a kind of digital fingerprint for our customers. We use it as a fast and easy way to confirm identity, and use other information available from Facebook for credit scoring," Andrew Huelsenbeck, Kenya Country Lead for Branch told ITWeb Africa.

"So many Kenyans have Facebook accounts, but might not have other forms of ID commonly needed to get loans. By using Facebook in this way, we're offering a lot of folks reliable access to credit for the first time," he added.

Branch is founded by Matt Flannery, the creator of the crowdsourcing site, Kiva.org.

"Equity Bank is building on the links between social networks and payments to enhance customer experience through introduction of new applications and services. This will definitely boost our online presence," said Dr Mwangi.

Kenya has approximately 22.3 million internet users, according to the latest Communications Authority of Kenya report, presenting an opportunity for corporates to use the medium to reach their clients.