South African short-term lender Wonga said yesterday it had noted significant changes in the credit market, as applicants for short-term loans appeared to be in less debt than a year ago.

James Williams, the head of marketing for Wonga, said there was an emerging pattern. Although applicants for short-term loans appeared to be in less debt than a year ago, this did not necessarily mean their access to credit was improving.

An analysis of anonymised loan application data garnered during the first quarter indicated that applicants’ debt levels have decreased. “During the first quarter of 2021, we have noted a 9 percent decrease in the number of applicants with outstanding debt on more than one account year-on-year,” Williams said.

“Further, our data also reflects that this year there has been a 1 percent decrease in an applicant’s debt-to-income ratio when compared to 2020, in addition to a 3 percent decrease in delinquencies.”

Wonga’s analysis noted that although the average net income among applicants had recovered by 6 percent compared to the first quarter of last year, there had been a 17 percent decrease in applicants with one or more other short-term loans active on their credit record compared to last year.

Wonga said these findings indicated that although there appeared to be a better-than-expected recovery among customers who appeared to be in less debt, lenders continued to monitor their risk carefully when issuing credit, which affected the ability of consumers to access unsecured loans.

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