One of the biggest frustrations of being an iPhone user in Kenya is that the majority of local mobile apps developed for the market are almost always only available for Android. From a business perspective, this makes sense for most mobile app developers since over 90% of smartphones used in Kenya are Android-based and these have the highest penetration and uptake since you can get them for as little as Kes. 3,500.00 as of this writing.
I am really excited about Malipo Circles who recently launched the iOS version of their financial services mobile app that helps people come together for a myriad of use cases. Malipo Circles is in particular most popular with savings groups (chamas) for improving transparency and accountability for all financial transactions which is often a major issue with chamas of all sizes.
I first became aware of Malipo Circles last year in September 2020 when I met their CEO Erick Oyugi who I interviewed here. At the time, Malipo Circles was only available as an Android mobile app and was still being fine-tuned before being fully launched.
I had a chance to tinker around with Malipo Circles via an Android device which always feels alien to me as an iPhone aficionado so it was really hard to fully appreciate it at the time. It did work for sure but I was keen to see what an iOS iteration of Malipo Circles would look like, and how it would work.
It seems my prayers were answered since I started using Malipo Circles on my trusty iPhone a couple of weeks ago after Erick alerted me that the mobile app was finally on the App Store even though they had actually had it ready since last year (Apple takes significantly longer to approve mobile apps compared to Google apparently). Whatever the case, I installed it immediately and it worked perfectly out of the box with all my current transactional data and wallet amounts accessible as is the case via my Android mobile device.
The user experience (UX) of Malipo Circles on iOS is nearly identical to what you get on Android. The menus as well as the overall look and feel is therefore quite familiar to anyone who has been using it on Android and may want to try out the iOS version.
The way Malipo Circles’ UX works is by using the metaphor of ‘circles’ for different scenarios. You can have as many public or private circles as you want or are a part of. Each circle basically represents a collective of people involved in anything from a chama, fundraising, customers, and/or merchants.
The home screen is basically 4 large buttons labelled Fundraiser, Loans between friends, Chama, and Malipo for Business. The idea is that you navigate into any one of these depending on what you need or want to do on Malipo Circles. These can be broken down in more detail as follows:
Fundraiser is where you go to create or participate in a public or private circle that is focused in raising funds for a particular need or objective. Once opened, you are presented with a list of fundraisers that you are a part of and you can then select the one you are interested in exploring. Each fundraiser indicates the target and the deficit to the target. This gives a quick snapshot of how well a fundraiser is doing at any given time.
If you open a specific fundraiser you are then presented with details on the members in the fundraiser, donations made, your wallet, pledges, and a button for join requests. You can invite users to join the fundraiser and also user your wallet if you would like to make a donation or withdrawal. Under the donations button, you can see your donations to-date as well as those of other members of the fundraiser. Basically, all transactions are visible to all parties.
Loans Between Friends
The loans between friends section allow you to create a circle where friends and family can loan each other money in a transparent and traceable manner. This particular feature is very popular according to Erick since one can set terms for inter-personal loans and also track repayments in a seamless and stress-free manner.
Many of Malipo Circles users use this feature to really help each other out when finances are tight during unexpected financial challenges. There is also the added benefit of this being an alternative to many of the notoriously bad mobile loan apps in Kenya that have left many of their users smarting from excessive interest rates and penalties.
The Chama circle is basically the main feature of the Malipo Circles mobile app and the main driver behind the app being developed in the first place. This is where you can create a circle for your chama (or chamas) and then on-board all your chama members. The main aspect of the chama section is to enable chama members to have a very transparent way of monitoring finances.
All contributions, transactions, loans, etc are captured here in a way that chama members can then have peace of mind that finances are being handled properly. It also enables approval processes and other tasks so that chama members don’t have to meet in person when they can automate most typical chama-related tasks via the app. This obviously saves time and money, not to mention the many risks that often lead to chamas being dissolved due to financial mismanagement and/or obscurity for stakeholders.
Malipo for Business
The Malipo for Business section is the last major section from the main UX of the mobile app where business users can set-up circles for transactions ranging from collecting rent from tenants, education collections for schools, service charge collections and even part payments being made towards a larger payment.
The main thing here is that there is much improved efficiencies and transparency around these kinds of transactions and especially given that many happen via M-Pesa. A landlord can see all rent payments being received and also generate invoices for payments from the same. It can act as a complete billing system so that everything is captured in one place for an individual or business.
The Malipo Circles Wallet
One more thing I wanted to mention is the Malipo Circles Wallet. This is basically where you can load funds for your various Malipo Circles using mobile money via Safaricom’s M-Pesa or Airtel Money, Credit Cards & Debit Cards, as well as direct transfers from bank accounts. This works both ways in each instance for funding and withdrawals in Malipo Circles in any one of the main use cases mentioned here. The Malipo Circles Wallet is financially connected to everything to make this possible.
In a nutshell, I am very chuffed that Malipo Circles is available for iPhone finally and this means many who may have been excluded from this or other fintech apps that cater to groups such as chamas and fundraisers can finally be part of the collective.
Since Malipo Circles is likely to have a much smaller portion of users on iOS, it’s testament to a commitment to make sure users everywhere can use Malipo Circles for their various financial needs even if the effort may outweigh the return for them. Thanks, Malipo Circles!