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Mastercard launches SMS-ordering service for Nairobi shopkeepers

Mastercard launches SMS-ordering service for Nairobi shopkeepers

Mastercard has launched digital ordering system Kionect, which allows small kiosk owners in Nairobi to order and pay for products from wholesalers via SMS.

Kionect is currently being piloted with over 1,000 micro-businesses in three of Nairobi's informal settlements - Kibera, Kawangware and Kariobangi - in partnership with Kaskazi, a for-profit wholesaler and distributor.

Diamond Trust Bank is facilitating digital payments between the kiosk owners and the wholesaler, and acting as a re-seller of the platform to its wholesale business clients.

Aside from the easier method of ordering, the platform also enables kiosk owners to create a digital record of their activity to help them get access to micro-loans to stock inventory and grow their businesses. With this in mind, Mastercard has partnered with microfinance firm Musoni to offer loans to merchants. With every loan that is paid on time, the kiosk owner has the opportunity to take out a larger loan for a longer term and further contribute to the growth of their business.

"Kiosk owners are the heartbeat of their communities - they source the supplies needed to get by. We have worked hand-in-hand with micro-merchants to truly understand their daily hurdles," said Michael Elliott, vice president Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi.

"Learning that product sourcing, tracking inventory and access to flexible, short-term credit are major pain points, we set out to develop Kionect. This Mastercard technology opens up a new avenue for micro-retailers to grow their business, increase consumer demand and ultimately contribute to economic development in Africa."

Kionect is one of several broad-based collaborations Mastercard has launched with public and private sector entities to bring electronic payments to Africa.

After the initial pilot, Mastercard will embed the most successful services and features of Kionect into solutions designed for scale in partnerships with global Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies in emerging markets.

"For kiosk owners, access to basic financial services holds the potential to expand their business and contribute to the vibrancy of their communities," said Juliet Ongwae, chief innovation officer at Musoni Kenya. "This product heavily relies on the micro-entrepreneurs' transactional data for credit assessment therefore making it accessible to micro-entrepreneurs who lack conventional collateral to secure their loans."

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