Diaspora Clicks In To Keep Kenya Talking

Posted on 6 January 2008. Filed under: Economy, Governance, Microfinance, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: MamaMikes
Mamamike’s web site

NAIROBI, 5 January 2008 (IRIN) – The crisis prompted by Kenya’s 27 December elections has left large numbers of people stranded in various parts of the country due to insecurity on the roads and general uncertainty. Many Nairobi residents and migrant workers travelled “up-country” to spend holidays with family or to vote in their rural constituency.

Returning to the capital Nairobi has been impossible for many. They are now stranded without paychecks in places where shops and banks have only been open intermittently and are running low on stocks. Access to cash and mobile phone credit cards has become difficult and prices for basics have risen.

Keeping in touch with family and friends, and exchanging updates on the situation are a priority for many.

Kenyans in the US and Europe are thronging websites that sell Kenyan phone credit to send to family and friends back home. “The volumes are unprecedented” Segeni Ngethe, founder of leading Kenyan e-commerce site MamaMike’s told IRIN.

He said, his operation was selling “easily ten times” more orders for mobile phone credit than usual and that mobile phone credit had overtaken his usual top seller, shopping vouchers. Customers abroad were especially buying for those “who are stuck in bad places”, and can be “very desperate”, he said. Almost all the orders are marked as “emergency” he added.

Ngethe said he was processing orders worth 30,000 Kenya Shillings (US$500) every hour today [5 January] to fulfill a backlog of orders.

Low liquidity in mobile cash transfer services

Kenya’s two mobile phone operators, Safaricom and Celtel, both have e-money transfer services but volumes seem not to have taken off during the crisis, according to a source close to the industry. For the very poor, there is no money to transfer, let alone a mobile phone to transfer it with, a vendor in Nairobi said. The industry source said most shops and kiosks that usually turn e-cash sent by text message into hard currency had closed because of the crisis. The source added, however, that the sector could well pick up over the weekend and Monday (7 January) would be “very, very busy.”

Christmas holidays are a busy period for Safaricom’s M-Pesa service which was used to transfer some 1.7 billion Kenya shillings (US$2.5 million) in December, the source said.

Ruth Wangechi, an M-Pesa agent in Nairobi told IRIN that she was serving about 30 customers a day in the run-up to Christmas, but very few today. “I think guys are broke” she said.

No bank and no phone either

According to a survey conducted by FinAccess in 2006, the formal banking sector is underdeveloped in Kenya with only about 450 bank branches in the country. Only 27 percent of the adult population participate in the formal banking system, 35 percent are members of informal credit associations and 38 percent are excluded from financial services. The latter group indicated that the most important reason for not having a bank account was the lack of regular income or savings.

Some 17 percent of respondents in the survey had sent or received money within Kenya. The most popular means of transferring money within the country is via family members or friends or bus companies. Formal channels were mostly used in international money transfers. In 2006, fewer than 1 in 5 of the people that are unbanked owned a mobile telephone. Since the survey, uptake of banking and mobile usage has increased, however.

Jecinta Kinyanjui, a shopowner in Mathare, a slum area of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, who also sells phone credit scratch cards explained why M-Pesa had not taken root in this part of town.

“There are not many transactions in this area. When people in Mathare send money upcountry they prefer buses. The money is sealed in a newspaper or cloth, then we put a telephone number on the package and an ID number. The package is checked in as a regular customer. Then it goes to the bus company’s office upcountry for the recipient to pick up”.

“Due to poverty there are not many mobile phones. People use public phones which are much cheaper,” she said. “In case of a disaster upcountry, the people in Mathare do not send money to the affected area. They go there themselves to help and bring money with them”.

MamaMike’s Ngethe said he was praying for peace in Kenya, but that he was doubtful the current “mindframe” in Kenya was in tune with his company’s latest tagline: “Share love. Send happiness”

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14 Responses to “Diaspora Clicks In To Keep Kenya Talking”

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Not be insensitive, but Segeni is about to be one rich brother. Mamamikes has been invaluable though.

[...] throughout this crisis will answer that question for once and for all – checkout this piece about Mama Mikes and the demand for phone credit. I hope this is a story that gets much more [...]

now i know why my ksh 1000 airtime that i sent to my dad on new year is still far fom delivery.any chance of getting a refund?

[...] enviromental and political on how technology helped Kenyans in time of need: “Kenyans in the US and Europe are thronging websites that sell Kenyan phone [...]

[...] How to keep your family and friends in Kenya talking by providing them with airtime: [...]

I sent 2000 on the 30th which has still yet to be delivered and the guys are asking me to be patient!
If such servies don’t work in times of real need and emergency, they are useless!

[...] Diaspora Clicks In To Keep Kenya Talking ‽ Kenya Environmental & Political News Weblog Kenyan diaspora is flocking to Mamamikes and other sites to send money and mobile credit home. Oddly, MPESA and other services may not be seeing heavy use, counter to some reports (tags: kenya mobile protest activism money telephony mpesa) [...]

[...] Läs det här, det här och det här. [...]

[...] Diaspora Clicks In To Keep Kenya Talking ‽ Kenya Environmental & Political News Weblog Kenyan diaspora is flocking to Mamamikes and other sites to send money and mobile credit home. Oddly, MPESA and other services may not be seeing heavy use, counter to some reports (tags: kenya mobile protest activism money telephony mpesa) [...]

[...] Diaspora Clicks In To Keep Kenya Talking ‽ Kenya Environmental & Political News Weblog Kenyan diaspora is flocking to Mamamikes and other sites to send money and mobile credit home. Oddly, MPESA and other services may not be seeing heavy use, counter to some reports (tags: kenya mobile protest activism money telephony mpesa) [...]

I think there is great potential in our country’s growth, but mamamikes sometimes delays too much before delivering, there are a few other new-comers in the market who are giving a new efficiency, the likes of http://www.quickerrands.com – They are doing MPESA and Airtime, they seem to be clearly following mamamikes, i tried to send airtime using them and it was instantly delivered, i think this is what we need.

Other players in the market like sambazanow.com, i dont know much about them but i think they also claim to do instant deliveries. Sambaza now has had issues from what i read in alot of forums, so i think i highly recommend QuickErrands.com

[...] abroad and Kenyans living in Kenya. Beyond Ushahidi, the Kenyan diaspora community also donated thousands of dollars via cash and mobile phone credits using MamaMikes during the post-election crisis earlier this [...]

wow nice one….Kenyan college students are also making money and this contribute greatly to our economy…. find out how…..http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-make-your-first-dollar-online-in-kenya-for-free


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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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