A Mauritius-based consumer finance company Africa Finance Business (afb) has opened a new office in Nairobi in a Sh250 million capital investment.
This development brings the number of afbâ€™s offices across Africa to four, with other offices operational in Lusaka, Accra and Cape Town.
Speaking in Nairobi, afbâ€™s Chief Executive Officer Karl Westvig said: â€œNairobiâ€™s reputation as an African commerce, trade and development hub made it a strategically sound location for afb. We believe it is a natural recognition of Kenyaâ€™s role as the financial heart of the East Africa region.â€
Westvig said the Kenyan operation would also be a launch pad for further expansion across the East African region as the company embarks on its quest to shift consumers from traditional cash payments to non-cash payment systems through partnership with key retail outlets.
â€œWe have been eyeing the Kenyan market for a long time after our research indicated that Kenya is one of the countries in Africa with well-developed financial and retail infrastructures. We want to use this opportunity to make gateways into the wider East African region that has a lot of promise in terms of returns on investment,â€ he added.
â€œApart from being a high growth-market and an important hub, Kenya is part of a region that is experiencing rapid improvements in income levels and infrastructure, has an abundance of well-educated and quality staff and offers a huge promise of continued growth for many organizations as a consumer market,â€ he explained.
At the same time, the company unveiled its retail credit card, focusing on empowering the average Kenyan to improve their lifestyle.
The card allows customers to spread the cost of their purchase into affordable monthly instalments over a period of six months.
â€œOur unsecured revolving credit products offer our Kenyan customers a convenient and flexible way to get instant access to the credit they need when they want it. Traditional banks do not cater for the mass market and at afb we make affordable credit available to consumers in a responsible way,â€ Westvig said.
â€œWe have been piloting in the Kenyan market for the past six months and the uptake has been very encouraging in terms of the level of individual subscriptions and signing of retail partnerships,â€ he revealed.
He added that they expect to build a debtors book of between Sh1.42 billion and Sh1.67 billion in the first year of operation, which will be financed through a combination of equity and debt.
Westvig explained that bringing the benefits of card payments to people of Kenya and by and large, across the African continent is a primary focus for afb, adding that Kenya, and indeed Africa as a whole, had always been heavily reliant on cash â€“ both in the consumer and corporate sectors.
â€œThis dependence is costly and cash payments restrict an individual or companyâ€™s economic activity to their immediate geographic area,â€ he noted.
â€œWe believe afb is unlocking the potential of the people by giving them access to credit which will greatly improve their lives,â€ he said.
The company has already signed deals with several retail outlets across Nairobi where its cards will be used including supermarkets, glassware shops, clothing shops and bookshops, among others.
â€œWe will look to diversify out of Nairobi to support our retail partners in areas where there is sufficient formal retail presence to support a business operation,â€ he revealed.
To apply for an afb card, one has to be 18 years of age or older, earn a monthly salary, have a valid identity document, have employment details (if self-employed, provide last three monthsâ€™ bank statements), and have their income and expense details available.
The repayment is made through any of the participating retails outlets or through M-PESA.