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Equitel off to a flyer as uptake soars

Equitel — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Equity Group Holdings — has overtaken the bank’s agency banking transactions, a year after its launch.

Speaking in Nairobi yesterday during an investors’ briefing on the bank’s 3.0 strategy, the group’s chief executive officer James Mwangi said Equitel had double the cumulative amount of transactions carried out by agency banking as at August.

Analysis indicates that about 8.6 million transactions had been carried out by Equitel as at last month, compared with 4.3 million transactions done by the bank’s agency banking.

Equity’s foray into mobile money and telephony was viewed as a potential game-changer because of its lower pricing and the introduction of a special SIM card that would overlay on competitor cards.

Equitel’s launch had been dogged with controversy, ranging from legal issues to do with the Equitel name to questions over the security of its thin-sim technology.

In January, agency banking was slightly higher by almost one million transactions, but by last month, mobile banking had overtaken it by 4.37 million transactions—which is almost double the figure.

“About Sh4.180 billion worth of loans had been disbursed to one million customers through the Equitel channel by August, compared with Sh179 million which was disbursed last year to applicants when the service had just been launched,” said Mwangi.

He said since the service was launched, Equitel SIM card uptake has increased from 600,000 to about 1.2 million people.   “About one million people have so far borrowed Sh4.2 billion using the Equitel channel and the payment rate is high,” said Mwangi.

Out of the Sh4.2 billion lent out by the bank through the channel, only Sh800 million is outstanding.  Very soon, he said, the borrowing period will be increased to three months.

Mwangi, meanwhile, announced that Equity Bank has completed the acquisition of ProCredit Bank of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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