The Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) plans to launch its mobile banking service M-Shwari in Ivory Coast in quarter three of next year, becoming the first Kenyan lender to venture into West Africa.
The lender says its expansion into Ivory Coast will be in partnership with MTN, the South African telecom with whom it already collaborates with in Uganda and is planning to launch the service with in Rwanda by April.
CBA’s expansion into the West African nation will make it the fifth country where the mobile credit and savings platform, which has registered huge success in Kenya, will be available.
“Our feasibility studies conducted on Cote D’Ivoire show that it is a very promising market,” Chris Pasha, the CBA’s head of marketing, said in an interview. “The bank’s strategic plan is that M-Shwari should be available in 10 counties by 2020.” In August this year, CBA and MTN launched MoKash in Uganda. The partners have since registered 1.23 million customers and processed 257,000 loans.
In Tanzania, the service — which is called M-Pawa — has 5.31 million customers and has processed 5.3 million loans since its launch in 2014.
Launched in 2012 on the Safaricom mobile money application, M-Shwari has become a key growth driver for CBA. In Kenya, the service processes about 80,000 loans per day and a customer base of 16 million.
The success of M-Shwari has boosted CBA’s earnings over the years. The company posted the fastest growth rate in the sector with its net profit jumping 52.7 per cent to Sh3.9 billion in the nine months to September, bolstered by fees charged on the mobile platform.
There are three companies providing mobile money services in Ivory Coast; MTN, Orange and Moov.
The country is the largest digital finance market in the West African Economic Monetary Union, accounting for more than a half of mobile money transactions in the eight-member bloc.
According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) there were nine million mobile money subscriptions in Ivory Coast by the end of 2014, more than bank accounts in the country.
Secondary school fees throughout the country must be paid via mobile money. However, CBA and MTN will have to work extra hard to nudge Ivorians to borrow as the IFC noted that nearly half of registered digital finance clients are inactive.
Although there are a host of West African businesses operating in Kenya, local companies have hardly penetrated the West African market.
Recently, the Safaricom-backed taxi hailing company, Little Ride, said it plans on expanding its services to Nigeria and Uganda.