How Kenya’s Digital Financial Inclusion Industry Is Failing Women Entrepreneurs

Mshwari & Mpesa is only half the story. The rest of it is happening offline, in cash and trust networks

Don’t get me wrong, the efforts by the Kenyan financial inclusion industry have not gone unnoticed. Without naming specifics, the industry’s greatest feat by far is building a wide accessible network for formal financial services.

But access is only one item on a long list. It doesn’t matter how many bank accounts you give to the poor. Heck, even throw in a bitcoin cryptocurrency bank account – 2 mobile banks, 5 traditional bank accounts and 2 cryptocurrency bank accounts. Access means nothing when you can’t put money in people’s pockets. I speak for all when I say Kenyan people want to be empowered, they want more pesa in their pockets period. And that’s ok!

So when I criticize the industry, I mean well.

If you’ve been up and about in Kenya, you will appreciate how pesa will almost always positively correlate to some sort of biashara opportunity and even more likely one in the informal sector

My assertion is there is an overall failure by Kenya’s financial inclusion industry to look beyond the digital personas of the people of East Africa’s informal economy. Whereas, much of their lives unravel offline in cash, trust and biashara networks.

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How to think about pesa in Kenya

How many of us think deeply about the pesa we use everyday? Here are 9 lenses we can look through to analyze all the pesa we use in Kenya today.

How many of us think deeply about the pesa we use everyday? In my experience, only a handful of us are conscious of the nuances of our day to day pesa. Yet, Kenya has one of the most colourful pesa diversity in the world. Bangla pesa, bonga points, Mpesa, Chama Pesa, Bitcoin, Cash and airtime are all part of Kenya’s money montage.

Here are 9 lenses we can look through to analyze all the pesa we use in Kenya today.

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