When the first case of the coronavirus pandemic was reported in March, the uncertainties hit homes hardest with ordinary Kenya thrown into turmoil without jobs and incomes and staring at the possibility of contractive the virus.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that in just three months as many as 1.7 million Kenyans found themselves without a job as employment fell to 15.87 million between April and end of June compared to 17.59 million the previous quarter.
It was devastating at first as many realized that they had been living beyond their means and started skipping rent or moving to cheaper homes.
But as Kenyans adjusted, staring small business and taking up ordinary jobs suddenly they were staring at recovery but having learned their lessons, Kenyans who are not good savers were now putting away more money than ever.
According to banking data for the third quarter, bank deposits had grown to a whooping Sh3.94 trillion up from Sh3.68 trillion in March, adding Sh259 billion to the lenders’ vaults over the six months.
This is equivalent of Kenyans saving Sh1.4 billion daily in commercial banks over the six months to September.
Kenyans savings rate has declined over the years hitting an all-time low of 8 per cent of the gross domestic product in December 2019, levels last seen in 2002 at the end of the tenuous 24 years under President Daniel Moi where the country’s savings rate stood at 8.5 per cent of GDP.
Gross National savings stood at Sh776.1 billion in 2019 just before the pandemic a sharp decline from Sh907.4 billion in 2018.
But the resurgence in savings shows that the lackluster performance may have been driven by lack of better returns for their money.
This offered banks a new view of their typical customer who they thought were not good savers like Stanbic banks new catchphrase “It Can Be” done.
But long gone are the days when a bank will give a lotto competition to entice depositors, a game of chance – bahati nasibu.
Banks are now developing new incentives to attract deposits by making it easier to transfer small amounts from mobile wallets to bank accounts or creating a package that turns savings into an asset to be borrowed against.
Stanbic Bank’s PureSave for instance perpetually allows free funds transfers from M-Pesa to your savings account, one free cash withdrawal allowed per month (over the counter) and a free internet access to the account.
To sweeten the deal, the bank pays an attractive interest rate paid for balances above 5,000 shillings, your savings accounts, and the account doesn’t have monthly fees charged, the interest calculated daily and paid monthly, as well as access to a current account with free access to the internet and mobile banking.
Banks are also waking up to the fact that billions are kept in informal clubs, chamas and Saccos not just because of returns but convenience and guarantee to get a loan applied for.
Over 2,286 savings and credit cooperative societies that have been allowed to operate without tight regulations are holding up to Sh117.50 billion of Kenyans deposits by December 2019.
The 174 deposit-taking SACCOs hold Sh380.4 billion deposit money as at the end of 2019.
Stanbic Bank is also offering a similar product with PureSave account albeit with more assurance on the safety of your deposits.
It will allow the saver to access a personal loan of up to 80 per cent of their savings amount, pre-approved advances of up to 80 per cent of their saving balances, access to transactional accounts with a link to the PureSave Account with free inter-accounts standing orders.