On 18th March 2022, the Central Bank of Kenya vide Legal Notice No. 46 operationalized the Central Bank of Kenya (Digital Credit Providers) Regulations, 2022 [hereafter “the Regulations”]. This was done in fulfillment of the Central Bank’s mandate over Digital Credit Providers [hereafter “DCP”] as granted by the Central Bank of Kenya (Amendment) Act, 2021.
The Regulations came into force at a time that the public had raised serious concerns about the fast-growing digital lending industry operating through apps installed on mobile phones and computers. The Regulations provide for the licensing, operations, and compliance requirements of Digital Credit Providers in Kenya. Having such Regulations offers a sense of security and protection to the target clientele of the DCPs.
The Regulations only apply to entities carrying out digital lending services through digital channels such as computers, mobile phones, the internet and apps. It is important to note that the Regulations do not apply to deposit-taking institutions such as Saccos, Banks and Microfinance Institutions.
In accordance with the Regulations, Digital Credit Providers are required to obtain a license from the Central Bank of Kenya before offering digital credit services. In situations where, the DCP had already begun operations prior to the operationalization of these Regulations, they are required to apply for a license from the CBK within a period of 6 months from the date the Regulations were published. It is noteworthy that the license issued by the CBK is renewable on annual basis by the 31st day of December. The current annual fee is capped at Kenya Shillings Twenty Thousand (KES. 20,000).
As the regulator of the DCPs, the CBK has the power to revoke or suspend a license based on the following reasons:
- Where the DCP violates the licensing conditions.
- Where the DCP fails to renew the license.
- Where the DCP gives false information when applying for the license.
- Where the DCP violates anti-money laundering laws.
- Where the DCP ceases to carry out the business of a Digital Credit Provider.
The Regulations also seek to protect consumers from harassment by prohibiting DCPs from aengaging in uncouth conduct such as use of violence or threats or profane language, making unsolicited and unauthorized phone calls or sending messages to a customer’s contacts, employing unconscionable debt collection tactics or act in any manner whose outcome is to abuse, oppress or harass the customer during debt collection.
The onus has now been placed on DCPs to carry out due diligence on a customer’s ability to repay the credit facility before advancing the same to the customer. Further to that, the DCPs have the responsibility of putting in place a complaints redress mechanism for customers. The same should be brought to the attention of the customers.
DCPs are also required to use systems that are reliable and secure in the sense that they guarantee the safety, confidentiality, and integrity of customers’ information.
4. LICENSED DIGITAL CREDIT PROVIDERS
On 19th September 2022, the CBK did a press release and confirmed that it had only approved ten Digital Credit Providers out of the 288 applications it had received since March 2022. Some of the licensed Digital Credit Providers include but are not limited to:
- Ceres Tech Limited
- Getcash Capital Limited
- Giando Africa Limited
- Jijenge Credit Limited
- Kweli Smart Solutions Limited
- Mwanzo Credit Limited
- MyWagepay Limited
- Rewot Ciro Limited
- Sevi Innovation Limited
- Sokohela Limited
This number is bound to increase gradually since other Digital Credit Providers are at different stages in the license application process.
By putting in place the Regulations, the CBK has given DCPs the responsibility of establishing internal policies and procedures that will complement the Regulations and foster a healthy business environment in the industry. These policies include but are not limited to Code of Ethics, Consumer Redress Mechanisms, Data Protection Mechanisms and Anti Money Laundering Policies.