The M-Shwari system outage that started on Sunday persisted for the fifth day Thursday, leaving a section of customers unable to access their savings accounts.
Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), which together with telecommunications giant Safaricom operate the mobile banking service, had not responded to our queries on the matter by the time of going to press.
Customers who complained to the two firms were told to remain patient awaiting resolution of their problems. CBA chief executive Isaac Awuondo had in a Wednesday telephone interview said the M-Shwari system was back to normal after experiencing interruptions over the weekend, but customers continued to file complaints as late as yesterday afternoon.
The major issue was inability to access money saved in the M-Shwari Lock Savings Account, which is an interest-earning account in which users put their money for a fixed period.
A customer who filed his complaint on Wednesday was given until yesterday evening to have the issue resolved. Another who contacted customer care agents on December 25 and told to wait for 72 hours to have his issue resolved had the waiting time extended by three more days yesterday.
Launched about five years ago, M-Shwari provides mobile money services to millions of Kenyans. CBA has disbursed Sh230 billion loans since its launch in November 2012. It has also attracted Sh669 billion deposits from its customers. The platform receives an average 300,000 loan applications a day with between 70,000 and 100,000 customers, or more than half, being successful.
Most people use M-Shwari either as a savings tool or as an avenue for accessing small loans conveniently and quickly.
CBA made a public announcement on Tuesday stating that the system outage had been resolved. In the statement, CBA said that the outage started from 10pm on Sunday, December 24. “We have since resolved the technical issues and M-Shwari customers are now able to transact normally,” Mr Awuondo said in the Tuesday statement.
On Sunday at around 11:40am, an attempt to transact on the M-Shwari returned the message that the service was undergoing maintenance. On Monday, a message indicated that M-Shwari was under emergency maintenance and was working to restore the service by 6pm.
“M-Shwari is undergoing emergency maintenance and is unable to process your request at this time. We are working to restore the service by 6.00pm,” the message read at 3.52pm.
The M-Shwari service was started mainly as a credit facility for those who have been locked out of the loans market for lack of collateral and credit history.
M-Shwari was positioned as a pioneer financial service that promotes a culture of saving among ordinary Kenyans and allows those with no collateral to access loans through their mobile phones.