Kenya’s mobile money; how mobile banking is changing the Kibera slums

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Transferring resources from those in society who possess them to the ones who are in need has been a feature of human organisation for millennia. These transfers have come in many forms – food, clothes, health services, educational resources, shelter and cash.


Kenya is a country of 32 million people. After a period of economic stagnation, the country is once again relatively growing at a pace faster than population growth. The GINI coefficient is one of the highest in Africa and over half of Kenyans live on less than a dollar a day (World Bank, n.d.). 

In countries like Kenya, where many people did not have a bank account, saving money and transferring cash to relatives was difficult. This has led to the development of mobile banking, a mobile money transferring system. M-PESA is the leader in Kenya’s branchless banking sector and nearly half (45 percent) of the adult population is registered for it, double the number of those with a bank account (23 percent) (FSD Kenya, 2009).

The development over this mobile banking system, which was nationally launched in 2007, has changed certain aspects of livelihoods. With the mobile money family members who have migrated to the cities to find a job can easily send remittances to their families in the countryside. The pregnant woman in the Kibera slums is now able to save money on her phone account for the time when her baby will be born. Air time can be bought for yourself or for your mother who wishes to call you. Cash flows – which are made totally invisible – have become more complex and have impacted the daily lives of many in Kenya.

The greatest aspect of this development is that it is now possible to directly transfer money to support the poorest. No governmental institutions, no taxes or corruption. We, Dodore, have been able since 2010 to transfer money directly to mother-headed families in the Kiberan slums. These families have been registered by M-Pesa. Every month, we tranfer money to their phone accounts. They send us a text message back, telling us what they spend the money on. The 3 words we most often receive in these messages: God Bless You!

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