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Kenya's Mobile Generation Accesses Loans Through Phones

Samuel Kinuthia, a chef in Nairobi, begins his workday by preparing ingredients for the day's special.

He has been a chef for the last 18 years and started his own catering business last year to supplement his regular income.

Kinuthia got the loan to start his business through Branch, a microlender that provides financial services including loans to Kenya residents via their mobile phones.

Branch, with its comparatively affordable interest rates, has been a boon for Kinuthia’s business.

"Catering equipment is quite expensive and I have been trying to acquire a few items here and there,” Kinuthia said. “But Branch has been with me all along the way. And it's also less of a hassle because at 8 to 9 percent on a 42-day loan, is quite easy to maintain and quite friendly, and then the repayment plan — you can pay in small amounts even before the scheduled payment dates."

Samuel Kinuthia, a chef in Nairobi, uses Branch for loans for his business. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)

Samuel Kinuthia, a chef in Nairobi, uses Branch for loans for his business. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)

Introduced in 2015 by Matt Flannery, Branch is a microfinance institution that has been billed as a bank in your pocket.

The app can be accessed on Google Play and on Facebook.

For a six-month repayment period, clients can apply for loans from as little as $10 to a maximum of $500. And the interest rates are as low as 5 percent in a country where banks charge as much as 26 percent.

There are three other major companies targeting the microloan market: M-Shwari, M-Co-op Cash and KCB M-Pesa, all of them linked to large commercial banks.

"We don't necessarily see ourselves directly competing with them. We don't think this is a winner-takes-all market,” said Andrew Huelsenbeck, Branch Country Director. “We are very excited to be working alongside them, and I think we are all working toward the same goal here."

And for Kinuthia, that goal is using advancements in technology to make it easier to expand his business.