We have not sold any sugar in months

[Dave Birch] OK, so that’s one of the more unusual testaments to the continuing success of the M-PESA scheme. You can see it in context in an article about some ethnographic research around M-PESA. Im afraid I can’t resist an extended quote…

It is early morning in Bukura, a small village in Western Kenya. The shop-keeper and his wife are preparing to open their small store, which sells household commodities such as flour and cooking oil. They also offer M-PESA services. There is already a queue outside. A group of about twenty villagers are crowding the entrance. “It is always like this,” the shop-keeper complains while pointing to the crowd. “Since we have become M-PESA agents we have no time to rest. This thing has even over-run our other business”. He then holds up a packet of sugar. “We have not sold any sugar in months. They only want M-PESA”.

[From Why has M-PESA become so popular in Kenya?]

This is only one of many, many similar stories that keep cropping up.

…the majority of customers in both the urban and rural areas assert that they prefer M-PESA over other money transfer services. This means that M-PESA must be offering them some kind of substantial benefit. In Bukura, this benefit comes in the form of savings on transport. Customers do not need to travel into Kakamega, the nearest town, to access the service. One elderly farmer commented that “I can just walk from my shamba (farm) and get money. I don’t have to spend and go into town. If the agent does not have cash today, then I will come back tomorrow. It is cheaper to wait”.

[From Why has M-PESA become so popular in Kenya?]

It just goes to show what can happen when the right digital money implementation comes along at the right time: real transformation.

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