Digital finance

An overview of the Kenya Financial Diaries research programme

October 13th, 2015

A major gap in the ability of formal financial services to deliver value for low-income families is a general lack of information and understanding of their preferences, behaviours and needs. To address this gap, FSD Kenya in partnership with BFA and Digital Divide Data undertook a Financial Diaries study between 2012 and 2013. The Kenya Financial Diaries tracked the cash flows of 298 low-income Kenyan households over a period of one year, with over half a million transactions recorded during this time. By observing people’s financial behaviour, the study provided a picture of how people deploy financial resources to open opportunities for themselves and to cushion themselves from the blows of shocks. In many households, stories of money problems and money solutions unfolded in great detail, helping us to understand the connections between financial services and poverty in much more detailed ways.

Since the original study was completed in 2013, several publications have been developed and a two-year follow-up study involving in-depth interviews with all of the original participating households is currently underway. The objective of the follow up is to understand how financial devices are deployed in the face of changing financial needs, the key factors that are influencing poverty trajectories and how new products and technologies get incorporated into household portfolios and how that shifts the way people invest and manage risk.

The reports, case studies, blogs and datasets developed (or in development) from the Kenya Financial Diaries study are listed below.

Title Publication date
Kenya Financial Diaries: Shilingi kwa shilingi, the financial lives of the poor August, 2014
Kenya Financial Diaries: Executive summary August, 2014
Cashlite report: Are we there yet? Rethinking the evolution of electronic payments in Kenya February, 2015
Two steps back: How low income Kenyans think about and experience risk in their pursuit of prosperity March, 2015
Getting an education in rural Kenya: Findings based on the Kenya Financial Diaries July, 2015
Capacities to aspire and capacities to save: A gendered analysis of motivations for liquidity management July, 2015
Struggling to thrive: How Kenya’s low income families [try to] pay for healthcare March, 2016
A buck short: What Financial Diaries tell us about building financial services that matter to low-income women October 2016
Trickling down & climbing up: Economic trajectories of the Financial Diaries households two years on October 2016
Small b Biashara November 2016
Finance & fortune November 2016
Respondent profiles
Title Publication date
“Evelyn”: Coping with chronic illness August, 2014
Extreme savings and thrift August, 2014
By her bootstraps: From house-help at 9 to homeowner at 29 August, 2014
Together, building a future with the security of a salary December, 2014
A farm of their own December, 2014
Title Publication date
What do the Financial Diaries tell us about financial products and the poor? August, 2015
Solving the money problems of the poor: four areas ripe for innovation August, 2015
It’s a small world, after all? August, 2015
A look at Kenya’s struggle to purchase healthcare March, 2016
Where are they now: introducing the Financial Diaries two-year follow up study October 2016
Title Publication date
Kenya Financial Diaries: All transactions October, 2015
Kenya Financial Diaries: Socio-economic and demographic datasets December, 2015
Kenya Financial Diaries datasets user guide December, 2015
Title Publication date
NTV coverage of Financial Diaries findings August, 2014
CNBC interview with Financial Diaries lead author August, 2014
Title Publication date
Struggling to thrive presentation at private sector dialogue on achieving universal health coverage March, 2016




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