Kenya: Mobile Banking

 

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Kenya today is undergoing a financial boom. Perhaps a surprising fact bearing in mind that the Kenyan Shilling last year weakened 11% and has finally levelled at 102 shillings to the US dollar. 42% of the population live below the poverty line, and youth unemployment is at 17% and rising. Yet despite these desperate statistics, the Kenyan population has begun to enjoy an unprecedented period of financial empowerment. The credit for this does not go to the Kenyan government, or elected official. Rather, it falls at the feet of a handful of entrepreneurs who pioneered the mobile banking scheme, ‘MPesa.’

Initially the flagship idea of Kenyan network provider Safaricom, the concept of mobile banking is built around the pre-existing ability of Kenyan networks to allow transfers of phone credit from one phone to another. This cannot be done in countries such as Britain, and in a nation where a tiny percentage of mobile phone users are on phone contracts, the transfer of phone credit (‘sambaza’) has been crucial in keeping so many Kenyan’s constantly on their phones at all hours of the day. The MPesa scheme took this innovation one step further and created mobile banking; the capacity to have a bank account that it completely controlled through one’s mobile phone. The unique aspect of this is that it doesn’t use the internet; all banking is done directly through the phone network. The innovation that could stem from this scheme is huge, with more Kenyan’s using a mobile phone than have access to clean water and sanitation. Every day, millions of shillings are transferred across the country using MPesa; to pay salaries, bills, remit money back home and to keep savings in a secure account. In a nation where many ordinary Kenyans do not have a conventional bank account, this scheme provides financial security to millions in the country. In a culture where typically cash is simply kept at home, mobile banking has fused the best qualities of modern banking with the needs of many Kenyans who live without access to the internet and are unable to reach traditional bank branches. The result is a secure, fast paced, emancipating concept that has allowed money to move across the country like never before.

So what next for the mobile banking phenomenon and its effect on Kenyan lives? This scheme has proven that even in a nation with rampant corruption and endemic poverty, innovation can crack even the toughest of bureaucracies. It has shown that an entrepreneurial venture can provide for the market in a way in which countless finance ministers have simply failed to do. Ultimately, it has connected the widely spread Kenyan population together. In a nation where tribal divides and socioeconomic inequality run deep and constantly plague society, the MPesa scheme demonstrates that every Kenyan is entitled to the benefits of the 21st Century. It is simply up to us to seize them.

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Trending in Melbourne

Lido Cinema
Lido Cinema

To say what is trending in Melbourne is difficult, as I could mention so many things, and Melburnians are so ahead of the curve that ‘trending’ items can be ephemeral. Despite all this, there are some things that are definitely ‘in’ right now – it is January, meaning that we are half way through the Australian summer, with Melbourne infamous for its indecisive and erratic weather, cool sunshine and the odd shower have been more common than the oppressively humid 40-degree days of yore, meaning that it is more pleasant to go out. The rain does, however, ensure that when the heavens do invariably open, it is best to stay ensconced inside whichever hipster café or bar you may find yourself.

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January also means the return of the Australian Open, and if tennis isn’t your thing, then you would be well advised to check out one of the city’s many rooftop cinemas and catch a movie under the night sky. Plenty of cinemas around Melbourne offer not only the new releases under the stars, but a few classics too. Crowd favourites include the imaginatively named Rooftop Cinema, the charming Moonlight Cinema in the Botanical Gardens, and the Lido in Hawthorn, plus many more places to gaze at the stars and Star Wars, or at the sky and Reservoir Dogs – they are offering plenty of screenings until late March.

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Over the next month or so, Melbourne’s summer will die down and winter will descend upon the city, heralding the Australian Rules Football to the most ‘footy’ obsessed town in the world, and rooftop cinemas, night markets and tennis will die out in seasonal popularity, ready for the next trend to sweep through the city.