Mobile Money, the Symbolism of Physical Money and Emerging Dynamics in Social Relationships among Low-Income Earners in Kenya

  •  Kennedy Waweru    


Kenya which is considered a leader of digitization of money in the form of mobile money in the developing world has been compared in some studies with Sweden, world leader in digitization of financial transaction among its residents. Despite the progress in digitization of financial transactions witnessed in many countries, opinion is still divided on whether full digitization of financial transactions is feasible. This study examines the symbolism of the physical money among low-income earners in Kenya a key variable to be considered in any move towards full digitization of financial transactions. The study surveyed 750 low-income households across Kenya and conducted focus groups. Findings indicate that Kenyans consider physical money as symbol of purchasing power that is irreplaceable by mobile money. They view mobile money as a complementary financial transactions facilitator especially for money transfer and not a replacement of cash. Findings also suggest that the advent of mobile money is be associated some increase in the degree of disconnection in personal interactions in social relationships. It also emerged that mobile money has facilitated continuity of rotating saving and credit associations in cases of mobility resulting from employments or other factors.

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