A month ago, Joy Namatsi discovered a technology that she reckons might revolutionise how she plans to fundraise for her organisation in the years to come.
Ms Namatsi came across M-Changa, a mobile phone application designed to tap into Kenya’s harambee spirit which she has since been using to raise money for the Cerebral Palsy Society (CPSR), an organisation she works for.
M-Changa is an SMS-based app that allows users to create a network of fundraisers, donate money to causes and keep the user updated on how the collection goes.
“It takes the hassle out of the process. I am not even technologically savvy and now I can handle a whole harambee from my phone,” said the CPSR public relations officer.
She expects to start using the app outside the realm of her office work to help her in organising family fundraising, say for weddings, funerals and other ceremonies.
Track your stocks in the bourse
Apart from the mobile phone money transfer services provided by telecommunications companies, Kenyan mobile application development space is awash with many other innovations.
For instance, if you need a cheap, easy-to-use smartphone program to manage your business books; there is an app for that.
In case you are losing track of your mobile money transactions because of one reason or the other; there is an app for that. Do you need to track your investments in the stock market? Relax, there is an app for that.
There are even apps that will quench the shopaholic in you — giving you access to the best deals in your vicinity at any moment in time.
Money magazine took to the web to discover, try out and bring a taste of some of the mobile apps to you under various groups of personal finance.
Our list is by no means exhaustive as the Internet has millions of other applications — purpose to discover them.
Further, our recommendations are subjective and will not necessarily mirror the experience of every user.
However, even as you take it upon yourself to explore a new, technologically-driven personal finance application, beware because online-related fraud is on the increase.
With 98 per cent of Kenyans accessing Internet via their mobile phones, its advisable to guard your financial data jealously.
Before releasing any details about yourself through a mobile app, be convinced beyond a doubt that the person or entity you are dealing with will not con you out of your hard-earned money or use your data for other unintended purposes.
“The risk of digitising your business is obviously around security. Information manipulation and availability is much faster and easier if one has access to it. Customer data is also very valuable and if not kept safe may lead to competitive disadvantage,” said Mr Kariuki Gathitu, founder of IT firm, Zege Technologies.
Further, it is advisable that you vet any apps you download to your mobile phone and or tablet very carefully.
Its recommended you download the programs from well-known app stores for example Google Play, Apple’s App Store or Nokia’s Ovi Store.
Beyond that, read product reviews to look out for any warning signs. Avoid apps that seem to have little or no downloads.
If an app is locally-developed, use a search engine to find its developers. If in doubt, get in touch with the developers.
In the case of SMEs looking for book-keeping software, a visit to the company’s physical location may count a great deal.
Next time you need to mobilise your family and friends to contribute money towards a wedding or a trip to the Mara, turn to your smartphone.
M-Changa is an SMS-based mobile application targeting harambee organisers, wedding committees or funeral planning committees.
An M-Changa account is created by simply texting the name of your cause to 2231 from any mobile phone network in Kenya for free.
Once created, the administrator can then invite people from his/her contact book and social media network to join the fundraiser.
Interested contacts then contribute money to the newly created account.
Its developers make money by charging fees for additional services, for example, sending a message to all your contacts will cost Sh2 per text.
A reminder to people who still owe you money will also cost Sh2 per message. To publicise your fundraiser using social media, you will have to pay Sh40 for a web link.
For the sake of transparency, the account administrator has to appoint up to three treasurers whose approval will be required before any funds to be withdrawn.
Withdrawal fees is Sh100. There is no upper limit on how much money can be collected through M-Changa and the money will be sent to the administrator’s mobile phone money account.
2. BLOOMBERG MOBILE
This app brings you up-to-date information on the performance of equity indices, commodities, bonds and currencies from bourses across the world, for free.
Bloomberg is one of the trusted names in financial journalism giving latest financial news in the world.
But a drawback is that it does not feature currencies from the East African region.
Its available on Apple phones and tablets, Blackberry phones, phones running the Windows operating system, Nokia gadgets and tablets and phones running on Android.
It has a personalisation feature that allows users to create ‘My Stocks’ portifolio for stocks they wish to keep a close eye on.
For a more localised view of the markets, a free mobile app from the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) will do the magic.
The NSE app, available on phones running on android software, provides real time data on counters listed at the NSE. Like the Bloomberg app, it also allows for personalization once users sign up for it via the web.
Key company announcements will also be send directly to your app once you sign up.
There are certain drawbacks though. When Money tested the app, the latest announcement dated August 2011 indicating that this function has not been updated for a while.
Although the prices of the stocks are up-to-date, this discrepancy puts accuracy of its data into question.
For many Kenyans, M-Pesa has virtually become their bank account. They make payments and receive cash through M-Pesa. Electricity and water bills as well as school fees is also paid via M-Pesa. But keeping tabs on all these deals is not always an easy.
The unofficial Safaricom App and PesaDroid fill the void of personal book keeping on an M-Pesa account.
It is important to note that the former app is not developed by Safaricom. The apps record incoming and outgoing payments generating mini cash flow statements.
Although Safaricom Selfcare has many of these functionalities, these apps give users the option of saving the statements in their phone’s memory or export them via e-mail.
PesaDroid also organises transactions into expense groups such as family, utilities and clients.
At the end of the month, it is possible to make an analysis of your M-Pesa activity and perhaps make vital financial decisions for the following month.
PesaDroid is available from pesadroid.com and Google Play.
There is a free version — Bwerere — albeit with limited capabilities and a paid version — Alfajiri — that costs Sh250.
The Safaricom App is free and has additional features that are absent in PesaDroid. Users can calculate their M-Shwari interest rates. The app has a record of the PayBill numbers of several firms, too.
The hindrance in both apps is that they are only compatible with smartphones running on Adnroid.
Unfortunately, there are no parallel apps to monitor deals sealed through Orange, Airtel or Essar mobile money platforms
5. Money Lover
Finding a personal expense management app is not easy. Many local app developers have concentrated on the SME market.
On the other hand, apps developed outside Kenya are not localized enough and users find themselves analysing their expenses in dollars or euros.
Money Lover app allows users to denominate expenses in Kenya shillings. There is a free, limited-features version of the android-based app. The premium version costs Sh434.17.
Money Lover lets the user manage their personal finances by tracking incomes and expenses.
Users can also create monthly and annual budgets based on their income and launch savings campaigns.
Many accounting programs target the global market hence users have to bear with invoices denominated in US dollars.
Further, not all of them are designed to meet needs of small businesses. Its for these reasons that Uhasibu came about. It has been customised for both web and mobile.
The Sh1,000 a month subscription app gives SMEs the sophistication that big firms enjoy while supporting the East African business environment, say generating local tax reports. Since its cloud-based, financial information is accessible on the go.
Developed by Zege Technologies, the designers claim it allows the small businesses to manage operations from a mobile phone or a tablet.
It manages mobile money payments made using different platforms in the financial system. It integrates cash payments and deals made via the Internet.
The subscription app can create a database from which you can monitor the habits of repeat customers. Generating such intelligence is usually hard for SMEs and it can be used to make advertising and stocking decisions.
When transactions are recorded through M-Payer, customers get automatic SMS receipts further increasing transparency.
Keeping tabs on your customers through M-Payer can reduce the stress often associated with granting consumers lay-away plans. Bulk SMS can also be send from M-Payer informing customers of new offers or products.
To access M-Payer, users need an Android-based phone or tablet. It is a subscription service that costs between Sh200 and Sh5,000 depending on the chosen package.
According to Zege Technologies, M-Payer is supposed to be a leaner, aggregation of Customer Relation Management system, a Point of Sale (POS) and Business Intelligence System.
Its a platform where consumers and retailers meet. Currently, it works as a mobile ticketing app for travellers.
Its available for free from the Google PlayStore and from the company’s website. Phones using other operating systems can access the M-Shop services through mobile web.
There is also a USSD version of the app for users without smartphones.
The app seems to have got a slow start providing ticketing services for only two bus companies — Modern Coast Express and Kampala Coach currently.
There are a number of companies that also list their even tickets with M-Shop.
Once you download M-Shop and sign up by providing your names and an e-mail, you can use a simple interface to purchase the tickets.
Payments will be made through Safaricom, Airtel and YuMobile platforms. Tickets will be delivered via SMS.
When Money tested it, the app had a couple of bugs that slowed it down. However, the products developers, MTL Systems, say its entirely dependent on the operating system in use that the bugs have since been fixed.
The mocality mobile application is compatible with Android, iPhone, Nokia and Blackberry handsets.
It provides the same features as the Mocality website but with greater ease for the mobile user.
Thousands of local business contacts are listed on the Mocality website. Finding them is as easy as making a call or using the Integrated Google Map to get directions to the physical locations.
Bid-or-Buy Kenya is a local website that allows users to buy and sell items on the Internet.
The corresponding mobile application is available on Android and Apple phones and tablets.
There is currently no BlackBerry version of the application but the company says that it is in the works.