Try to imagine what your life would be like if you had no bank account, no credit or debit cards, and no cash, and on top of that, you lived in a country where poverty, crime, and corruption were rampant. I’ve never been there, but by many reports Kenya is just such a place. How do people cope?
As in other places, like India and Thailand, that I have visited, it seems that the majority of people in Kenya are micro-entrepreneurs who eke out a living by producing and selling products or services of some sort. And, like everywhere else, having a means for exchanging those goods and services and “paying” each other is crucial to survival.
Ultimately, as private currencies and moneyless exchange mechanism proliferate, we all will have numerous payment options. The Bangla-Pesa project operating near Mombasa is one such model that is now being replicated in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. But even technologies that only provide new ways of paying with national currencies are proving to be beneficial in many ways.
Kenya’s Safaricom company has led the world in implementing phone-to-phone payments with the M-pesa. All it takes is a text message from the buyer’s phone to the seller’s phone to make a payment. Almost everyone in Kenya has access to mobile phone service and they may draw cash from their accounts at any of the 45,000 independent agents scattered around the country.
A recent Business Week article documents the ubiquity of this payment mechanism and its positive effects in such diverse areas as security, renewable energy, crowdfunding, and economic development . You can read it here: Ten Days in Kenya With No Cash, Only a Phone.
When mobile phone payment systems include complementary currency options, the beneficial effects will be multiplied manifold. — t.h.g.
Every day brings new stories about the successful application of new exchange mechanisms that are helping people to survive and thrive in the face of monetary dysfunctions and misguided government policies that are becoming ever more prevalent.
This report from Kenya is a moving and inspiring account of one aging woman’s efforts to keep her family fed and housed.
Maciana Anyango’s husband died a long time ago, leaving her with 5 children to care for alone. Even though she is 64 now, and most of her children are grown, she still bears the burden for caring for her family. Her oldest son, who might have taken on this responsibility, also died, and her oldest daughter is disabled from a bout of TB. Her surviving son was trained as a driver, but he’s been unable to find work, so he, his wife, and his two children live with Marciana, along with Mariciana’s disabled daughter and youngest daughter (17 years). Marciana didn’t have the money to send her youngest daughter to secondary school. And, although she received some training as a tailor, she is also unemployed.
So, Marciana supports this household from the sale of porridge and a bean and maize soup. The porridge sells for 15ksh ($0.18) and soup for 10ksh ($0.12). She usually makes around 600ksh ($7) a day to feed a family of 7. Technically, this puts her above the international poverty line based on the lower cost of living in Kenya, but, as she leaned her forehead against a pole, looked down at her worn red flip flops and dust covered feet, and told us about her life, we could feel the exhaustion caused by her efforts to keep her family fed and housed, and some sadness at being unable to keep her daughters in school and in good health.
Things are improving for Marciana now. She became a member of Koru’s Bangladesh Business Network in December and started trading the Bangla-Pesa voucher with fellow members. More…
And a world away in the United States, commercial trade exchanges (sometimes called “barter exchanges”) are continuing to proliferate and develop in ways that promise to make moneyless trading mechanisms ever more effective and accessible. Trade Authority is an entity that is promoting the proliferation of member-owned trade exchanges and plans eventually to network these exchanges together to enable members to spend their trade credits over a wider area. View their introductory video here.
A currency project that was conceived and operated by Will Ruddick in Kenya last year has reportedly achieved significant social benefits at very little cost. A full report titled, Eco-Pesa: An Evaluation of a Complementary Currency Programme in Kenya’s Informal Settlements can be found at the International Journal of Community Currency Research.