Uber driver Michael Muturi in Kenya’s capital Nairobi has the chance to buy a car that would normally be out of reach thanks to a new bank loan program that uses data from the ride-hailing app to assess risk, Reuters reported.
“I felt like I won a jackpot,” said Muturi, who received an Uber message this month telling him his profile was good enough to apply for a car loan. “With my own car I will be able to afford a good house, take my kids to a good school and save for the future.”
Kenya’s Sidian Bank has approved at least 10 car loans for experienced Uber drivers using a model Uber hopes to roll out across Africa, where poor customer data limits lending, Reuters reported.
Getting loans is a major challenge for people and small business owners in Africa. Few people have bank accounts or a credit score and this prevents lenders from assessing risk.
Sidian’s financing is focused more on the applicant’s proven Uber experience than on his or her credit history, the bank CEO said, according to Mail&Guardian. “We expect speedy uptake of this financing package, with the entrenchment of Uber’s services in Kenya.”
Uber has 1,000 drivers in Kenya, and plans to add another 10,000 over three years. After 15 months of operation, Uber drivers sold 1 million rides. Demand is growing for the service in other cities, said Nate Anderson, Uber general manager for Kenya.
Uber’s app is a way for Uber drivers to accumulate data. The app registers customer satisfaction and provides the bank with data it needs to decide whether to offer Uber drivers relatively cheap loans to buy their own cars.
To get a loan from Sidian, a driver must accumulate at least 500 trips with Uber and have an average passenger rating score of at least 4.6 points out of 5.
“It’s really a data-driven approach to credit risk analysis, dispensing with the traditional banking method and relying instead on the data that Uber has collected,” said Titus Karanja, CEO of Sidian Bank, Reuters reported.
Sidian is offering up to 100 percent financing for a car, with a maximum loan of 1.5 million shillings ($14,790 US). Since launching the service at the end of May it has approved 10 three-year loans with a 10.5 percent interest rate, which is high by U.S. standards, but is below the average 18 percent rates most Kenyans face.
The first credit rating bureau opened in Kenya in 2010. A lack of credit history is one of the reasons just 4.4 percent of the 45 million population have a personal bank loan, according to the central bank.
“It’s hard to tap into the credit market in Kenya,” said Melekot Abate, an associate in the Nairobi office of development advisory firm CrossBoundary, Reuters reported.
“Most individuals have very little credit history or assets to seize so banks are unwilling to take the risk,” he said.
Uber continues to expand in Kenya despite Uber drivers facing opposition and hostility from other taxi drivers. Uber has also has rivals.
Mobile phone company Safaricom, which is 40-percent owned by Britain’s Vodafone, said it would partner with a local software firm to launch a ride-hailing service in competition with Uber.
Sidian Bank, which is part of Kenya’s largest listed investment vehicle Centum Investment, has allocated 10 billion shillings ($98 million US) to the car loan program. Uber hopes it can be adopted elsewhere in Africa. “It makes sense for all of these countries that we’re going into in Africa to implement similar programs,” Anderson said in a Reuters interview.
A similar credit resource using Uber data is available in South Africa but Kenya’s less developed financial market is more typical of the rest of the continent and should provide a better indication of how the credit program could be repeated, according to Reuters.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a much shorter time frame before it’s live in places like Tanzania, like Uganda and like Ghana,” Anderson said.
About 38 percent of Kenyans have accounts with commercial banks compared with 77 percent in South Africa, according to FSD Kenya, a development program funded by Britain that works to expand access to financial services.
“People are very quick to adopt technologies here, and really embrace things that can create efficiencies and help improve people’s lives,” Anderson said.