Mr. Ireneus Gichana, Chief Executive Officer, Maisha Microfinance Bank.

 By  being  innovative ,  far sighted bank successfully   fights   back technological disruption 

By Agnes Mbithi

Kenya has one of the most developed microfinance sectors in Africa.  Over the years, the key   sector has played a pivotal role in enhancing financial inclusion in the country  by offering innovative   products and services.  Licensed by  the Central Bank of Kenya  ( CBK),  Maisha Microfinance Bank ( MFB)  is one of the major  players in the vibrant sector.

 The agile  MFB   that  heavily  relies on technology  to deliver service and offer products   was  established  back in 2014. Subsequently, it   received its operational license from CBK in 2016. Its main target market comprises :   entrepreneurs, salaried individuals , organizations   as well as their  respective  customers.  “ We are  in  the microfinance    space  in order  to offer our customers  tailor made solutions  based  on  their feedback,” says  Mr. Ireneus Gichana, the Chief Executive Officer.   These solutions include savings products as well as   personal and business loans.


Currently in Kenya, most lenders rely on the brick and mortar delivery channel, which they complement with  technology. Maisha MFB has defied that trend.  It only has one physical branch – the headquarters at Nairobi’s central business district.  It serves  the   rest of the country  effectively and efficiently through technology. “ By partnering with M-Pesa and Airtel money, we offer mobile based savings and loan solutions to all our customers countrywide,”  says Mr. Gichana. This is a first in the country.

To further strengthen the digital model, Maisha MFB has developed an innovative mobile app  dubbed M-Fanisi. It is available on Google app store and iPhone operating system ( iOS).  The M in this product stands for Maisha while Fanisi is the Kiswahili word for prosper.  This is tied to the lender’s tagline – ‘prosper with us’.  Through this app,  customers are able to borrow money, besides   saving  and  fixing   deposits through their  mobile phones.   One of  the unique features of  this product  is  that customers can  have  fixed deposits  of  as low as  Kshs.500.

The other innovative product  is a mobile application app dubbed  M-DOH.  Through this application, customers are able to deposit and withdraw money at the comfort of their homes and workplaces as well as to check balances among other functions.  M-DOH  came in handy when the country was experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic  and people’s movement was restricted.  “ At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, our customers were able to access money using M-DOH ,enabling them  to  purchase household items, masks and sanitizers,” says Mr. Gichana  adding that customers also used  the   money to pay for medication.

ACCOLADES: Some of the top awards (see below also), that Maisha MFB has clinched.

By embracing technology,  Maisha MFB  has helped its customers to save a lot of valuable time that  they  could have otherwise  spent  to visit its  physical branch for banking services. Additionally, putting up brick and mortar branches is a very expensive affair, hence the bank has saved  on expansion cost.

 Mr. Gichana further  says  that  customers can access small ticket loans through their mobile phones.  They only visit the physical branch when they need big ticket  loans that  necessitate   a thorough appraisal process.

 By  being  bullish in  adopting technology ,  Maisha  MFB   stands  out  in  the  microfinance  field. Besides lending,  the bank is also keen on inculcating a savings culture among Kenyans as  they strive to attain  financial freedom  and create wealth.  Customers can for instance  lock their  fixed  deposits  using the M-Fanisi app up to a maximum  of  Kshs. 1 million at very attractive interest rates.  


One of the major milestones of Maisha MFB is the successful use of technology to grow its business. “ We are able to serve far flung areas in the country – including Moyale, Mandera and Turkana by using technology,”  Mr. Gichana says.  In that regard, Maisha has clinched  a number of  top awards  including the  2018 Think Business  Award  second runners up position for  being the  fastest growing  microfinance  bank.   Additionally in 2019,  the bank got   the Gold Mark Award CIO 100 (CIO East Africa) for excellence in adopting ICT in business.  In the  same year,  it  also won an award for being the best microfinance bank in product innovation in Kenya courtesy of  the  Think Business Banking Awards.  By  the same token in  2020,  during   the Think Business Awards,  Miasha  emerged  the   fastest growing microfinance bank. In the  same year , it   also won a silver mark award for excellence in adopting ICT in business courtesy of CIO 1OO (CIO East Africa).

Moreover    in  2021,  Maisha MFB  excelled in  the Think Business Awards  by  clinching : the  overall best microfinance bank in Kenya  (  first  runners up position),   best microfinance bank in digital banking ( number  one) and finally,  the best microfinance bank in product innovation.

Keen  on   strengthening  its  performance,  Maisha MFB will soon  bring a strategic    investor on board.  To that end, it has already got an approval  from the Competition  Authority of Kenya.   The other approval in this exercise  according  to Mr. Gichana  will be from CBK . 



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