When multinational consumer finance company, afb entered the Kenyan market in 2013, it was hoping to reap big.
When multinational consumer finance company, afb entered the Kenyan market in 2013, it was hoping to reap big, maybe even get nominated and win best company of the year award. In its estimate the company had done its homework and entered the Kenyan market with ‘bravado’
The company hoped to ride on the Kenyan fans ‘passionate addiction’ to English premier league. They reportedly pumped 250million capital investment just for lending. According to the afb CEO Karl Westvig they wanted to shift customers from traditional payment (using paper money) to non-cash payment systems (Credit cards) through partnership with key retain outlets and tap into Kenya’s growing middle class.
In a game changer they vowed to work for the little man and woman, formal banks would not touch with a ten foot pole, never again they vowed! And in return ‘poor wanjiku’ would simply get credit at a lower interest rates, what would go wrong?
they even acquired a tech startup in Kenya, Weza Tele for $1.7 million, they meant business.
So in a bid to get traction quickly on the Kenyan market, they cordially invited social media influences and bloggers way in 2013, and launched the consumer finance revolution at the Sierra Bar, Lounge & Brasserie located at YaYa center 2nd floor. Where apart from imbibing on free drinks and snacks the bloggers were also handed ‘free’ credit cards.
Afb fortunes however took a nose dive and started to experience financial difficulties just two years into entrance into the Kenyan market.
In a news report done by the standard last year, hundreds of Kenyans working for afb were laid off after the company revealed plans to shut down its operations in Kenya, following high rates of default among its customers.
Raen Bloem, the managing director of the credit card business told the standard that the service had been discontinued over commercial reasons but did not delve further.
“We are scaling down our operations significantly, but will still be there to receive payment from customers” Mr. Bloem said referring further inquiries to the head office in South Africa.
He would not reveal how much their clients owed the company in outstanding unpaid consumer loans granted through the credit card.
It seems however that the ‘free credit cards’ they dished out to bloggers when they were setting up shop in 2013 was not all that free.
Through Nimble Kenya company bloggers and everyone who received the card was sent a message to promptly pay up this year, failure to which they got blacklisted in the Credit Revenue Bureau (CRB).
Bloggers who spoke exclusively to Ghafla revealed messages they have been sent by Nimble Kenya of either paying up or getting black listed.
Right now they can’t even qualify for a bank loan, they lives have literally come to a standstill, until they pay up for something they were given freely and told it was free.
So who is fooling who? Is there a thing really as ‘free lunch’ in business?
In the same report covered by standard last year, afb CEO confirmed receiving several complaints from their customers that the costs of the credit card services had not been fully disclosed by the firm’s agents when they recruited users (including the bloggers}
“Our agents may have misrepresented the product by failing to disclose all costs” Westvig conceded
If indeed the company did not disclose these hidden cost why then go after the credit users, why blacklist them in the CRB? The bloggers wish the once flourishing company can honor their word and leave them in peace.