This report examines the use of M-PESA within the wider context of financial service use in Kenya. It argues that the way this service is being used offers evidence of a key feature of the logic of people’s financial transactions: that they are embedded in the give and take nature of inter-personal transfers within social networks and relationships. As a result it argues that M-PESA, rather than offering a short cut to financial inclusion, reveals a rift between the services the formal and informal sectors offer while having captured some of these transactions through a commercial service. In revealing this rift, there are significant implications for how formal services need to develop if dramatic strides to formal inclusion into savings and loans services are to be made. We identify further rifts that are related to this analysis which involve gender dimensions of the financial market and transactions sizes.
This study involves investigation of both the supply and demand sides of the market and uses both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews. It was designed in this way in order to delve into financial service provision and use below the aggregate findings of the national level FinAccess surveys in order to illuminate the dynamics of financial inclusion for low-income groups an hence offer insights for policy and practice. It was carried out in the environs of three towns chosen to cross-cut district poverty rankings. Two were located in higher potential agro-ecological zones (Karatina and Nyamira) in order to examine reasons for use and non-use in areas where high population density and food security are not primary problems or challenges for the spatial “frontier” of service delivery, whereas the third location (Kitui) more clearly reflects the spatial frontier.
In addition to this main report a summary and three annexes are available:
Johnson, S., Brown, G. K., & Fouillet, C. (2012). The search for inclusion in Kenya’s financial landscape: The rift revealed. Nairobi, Kenya: FSD Kenya.