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Mobile money agents reap from Kenya real estate boom

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- For every new residential building that tenants occupy in Kenya’s capital Nairobi and other major towns, one would not miss a mobile money shop on the ground floor.

The taller the building, the more outlets one would find, with other shops being those selling construction materials and household goods.

It is the same case with new gated communities, where one finds several mobile money outlets in the vicinity. In particular, just outside the main entrance of the estates if not within.

The mobile money agents are among the biggest beneficiaries of the real estate boom in the East African nation. As new buildings come up in the country, so are mobile money agents.

Apart from residential buildings, the agents are also opening shops at shopping centers like malls and commercial buildings in the suburbs.

The malls are among popular commercial buildings being constructed in the East African nation currently.

“Without this residential building, I will not be running this shop here,” said George Miruka, who operates in Mihango on the east of Nairobi, on Thursday.

“The people who live in these houses are my first customers, then the others follow,” he added.

The five-storey flat hosts 30 one bedroom and one-roomed houses and its construction was completed barely six months ago and it is 90 percent occupied.

Miruka booked the shop months before the building was completed as he sought to expand his business.

“I moved in as soon as it was half occupied and I can say so far, so good because the tenants are offering me business,” he said, noting some pay their rent through the agency banking service he runs at the shop.

Outside the newly constructed Hill Park Estate in Kitengela, two mobile money agents are competing for the attention of residents.

The estate was built recently and as soon as tenants and house owners started to move in, the mobile money shops sprung up.

“I started the business because I saw the potential here. These houses host up to 300 people. They have not disappointed me in the last one year I have been working here,” said Celine Akinyi, one of the agents. She also sells charcoal, clothes and cooking gas at her shop.

Antony Kuyo, a real estate consultant, acknowledged that mobile money and banking agents are among the biggest beneficiaries of Kenya’s construction boom.

“A majority of landlords build houses with provision of shops on the ground floor. Initially, those taking the spaces were sellers of household goods but mobile money agents have become leading occupants,” he said.

He attributed this to the ubiquitous nature of the service, which is deeply intertwined in the lives of Kenyans.

Some 30 million Kenyans are subscribed to the service and the East African nation has about 200,000 agents, according to Communications Authority of Kenya.

“Real estate growth opens up new areas and attracts people therefore creating business. Places that were not inhabited become vibrant once houses are constructed and business booms thereafter,” he said.


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