SBM Bank launches debit card for firms trading with China


SBM Group chairman Kee Chong Li. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

SBM Bank Kenya has in partnership with global payments firm UnionPay International said it will roll out a debit card that will ease online transactions for local firms importing goods from China.

SBM Group Chairman Kee Chong Li said that the UnionPay prepaid card will have a wallet for Yuan, the Chinese currency, and will also shield local firms from online fraud for the purchases that currently rely on trust.

The debit cards will be issued by the Mauritian lender and will be denominated in Kenyan shillings with plans to add Yuan and Dollar wallets in coming years.

“With China increasingly becoming a leading trade partner for Kenya and wider African continent, this particular UnionPay prepaid card will eventually have a Yuan wallet enabling users to make direct purchases from China and shielding them from forex losses,” Mr Li said in a statement.

The card will have no cash limits on top-ups, but customers will only be allowed to load Sh750,000 a day.

The deal that also marks efforts by UnionPay International to expand its footprint in Africa, is the latest by lenders seeking to capitalise on traders’ increasingly eyeing the Chinese market for imports ranging from clothes to electronics.

It comes hot on the heels of a similar partnership by Stanbic Kenya as banks seek to grow their customer numbers drawing from the local traders eyeing markets such as China.

In July, Stanbic Bank signed a deal with Zhejiang International Trading Supply Chain Company also known as Guomao to link local importers with more than 10,000 suppliers in China and provide quality assurance for goods bought.

Under the deal, Stanbic undertakes a letter of credit on behalf of its Kenyan customers while Chinese lender ICBC plays a similar role on behalf of the seller in China through the agent, in a bid to protect both sides in the transaction.

Kenyans imported Sh370.8 billion worth of goods from China last year while exports stood at Sh11.1 billion, underlining the growing demand for products from the Asian economic giant.