By Corazon mwende
Techies, start ups and innovations are the lifestyles being adopted by each and every corner of the world. Our society is no longer crippled to one culture but rather the diversification of opportunities is being created through adopting technology.
Africa has a lineage of innovators who have made it their initiative to build a society that will match up to the western world way of life. This is all encompassed in one word, TECHNOLOGY. A blessing or a curse? The penetration of the cashless system in Kenya came to birth with the introduction of MPESA.
A 2013 report dubbed ‘The cashless journey’ showed that 27 percent of Kenyans had wholly adapted the cashless system through settling their bills, buying goods and paying for various services at restaurants etc. (Business Daily News).
The report also shows that Kenya is ranked second in the world as a country that has adopted this cashless system, second from South Africa which has 43 percent of its citizens embracing it. This was a 2013 report, then my question is, ‘2 years later how many other Kenyans have adopted this? Is it a curse of a blessing?’
Cashless system is safe, but at the same time has created that channel that has made many Kenyans have access to credit. For example with MPESA, there is Mshwari which is a partnership between Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) and Safaricom. Mshwari gives many Kenyans and those with the Safaricom line, access to credit and at the same time bank our money. Still on the cashless system with Safaricom, there is the access to mobile phone airtime, whereby one can simply transfer money via MPESA and convert it to airtime and at the same time if he/she does not have ‘liquid’ cash they can ‘okoa jahazi’ a system well articulated for the masses by the Telkom operator. It is through such innovations that more financial and cash related institutions are on an avalanche to do away with ‘liquid’ money transaction. This has opened doors for many people to have access to credit.
Almost all banks in the country convince their customers to have a credit card. I remember a while bank when my bank called me just to ‘enlighten’ me of this new product that they were introducing to the market; the product being the ‘credit card’. The ‘beauty’ of it being the fact that I can keep the card and use it during times when there is an emergency. Little did I know that this would actually just make me handicapped and a bank beggar (for lack of a better term). The access to credit in Kenya is rapidly growing and in my opinion I think it’s a curse. I believe that Kenyans should be FIRST taught on different ways by which this ‘cashless’ system can be of benefit to them without having an extravagant lifestyle.
An article in the guardian dubbed ‘The coming ‘tsunami of debt’ Financial Crisis in America’ clearly draws a picture of how Americans had access to so much credit and when the financial meltdown happened it actually forced them to change their ;lifestyles and draw them two or three steps back financially. This I recall happened abruptly. No one planned for it, very few had been educated about financial planning. It was a ‘Claus’ season of ‘Santa’s credit card blessing’
Are we as Kenyans prepared for this? Yes cashless system, whether we like it or not, it is here to grow with us, fall with us…but bottom line is ‘IT IS HERE WITH US’
Access to such a large platform of credit should trigger education among the citizens so as to have priorities set right and hence curb a situation like the financial meltdown in America. If such a scenario happened to a ‘Super Power’ country ‘sembuse’ a developing country?