March 16, 2018 / 1:24 PM / 4 months ago

Barclays Kenya launches mobile app, eyes 5 mln new customers

NAIROBI, March 16 (Reuters) - Barclays Kenya launched an app on Friday to allow customers to borrow up to 150,000 shillings ($1,484) for 30 days using their phones.

Barclays, a unit of South Africa’s Barclays Africa Group , wants to attract at least five million new customers in the next five years, up from around half a million, through mobile phone-based lending, Chief Executive Jeremy Awori said.

Kenyan lenders have been turning to technology in response to competition from mobile phone-based financial services such as Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform.

Pressure to use mobile channels to cut costs increased when the government capped lending rates in September 2016, crimping profit margins.

“Our focus is to use innovation and technology to develop products that are more relevant to the emerging needs of our customers,” Awori said.

Known as Timiza, Swahili for “Achieve”, the new app’s competitors include KCB Group’s KCB M-Pesa and CBA Group’s M-Shwari, both operated in partnership with Safaricom.

Equity Group, another top-five lender, offers mobile financial services through its telecoms subsidiary, Equitel.

Awori said the app will allow users, who will access it by dialling a short code and do not have to be Barclays clients, to buy insurance and to hail rides through a partnership with local ride-hailing company Little.

$1 = 101.1000 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Dasha Afanasieva

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