On the afternoon of Thursday, November 19th, 2020, Researcher Julie Zollmann defied the COVID-imposed absence of a live audience to deliver FSD Kenya’s 2020 Public annual lecture on inclusive finance, via YouTube from the University of Nairobi’s Chandaria Auditorium.
Julie’s lecture, titled “Living on Little: Navigating Financial Scarcity in Modern Kenya” was the sixth edition of the FSD Kenya lecture series, launched in 2015 to highlight new thinking and raise cutting edge issues in the field of financial inclusion. It was co-hosted by the University of Nairobi Institute for Development Studies (IDS).
Julie is a researcher who uses the tools of economics and anthropology to understand how ordinary people use technology and finance to navigate their economic lives. She has particular expertise in sub-Saharan Africa and in translating research into real-life solutions. In Kenya, Julie has had a long relationship with FSD Kenya, leading the Kenya Financial Diaries project and more recently the Kenya COVID-19 Diaries in partnership with BFA Global, tracking the economic impact of COVID-19 on low income households and small enterprises in the country.
In her lecture, Julie demonstrated the many deep and overlooked ways in which scarcity shapes the lives of ordinary Kenyans. She drew on four years of systematic research with nearly 300 low-income families, which had given her a rare, close examination of the ordinary Kenyans’ lives, showcasing their optimistic and ambitious pursuit of development—and how their aspirations are often thwarted by structural barriers and inequalities.
One big question that loomed in Julie’s delivery was: how can financial sector finance—and private enterprise more broadly—reimagine their roles in building a truly inclusive economy for all?
This question formed the core of a vibrant discussion featuring some of Kenya’s preeminent financial, industry and policy giants, who participated in the follow-up panel discussion moderated by FSD Kenya Economist Anzetse Were. They included Dr. James Mwangi, Group Managing Director and CEO of Equity Group Holdings Plc and Executive Chairman Equity Group; Mr. Isaac Awuondo Chairman of NCBA Bank Kenya; Ms. Debra Mallowah, Chief Business Development Officer of Safaricom; and Dr. Wangari Ng’ang’a, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Technical Adviser at the Executive Office of the President of Kenya.
As the lecture drew to a close, Dr. Radha Upadhyaya from the IDS led the panellists in formally launching Julie’s new book, eponymously titled Living on Little: Navigating Financial Scarcity in Modern Kenya and based on FSD Kenya’s Financial Diaries project.