Over the last decade, digital financial services – especially mobile money – have revolutionized how Kenyans manage their money. In a country where the majority do not have ‘formal’ bank accounts or access to financial services, mobile banking has turned the sector upside down.
Today, almost anyone can own a 24 hour “bank account” (or mobile money “wallet”) with low barriers to entry: you can send and receive money, save or borrow with little or no hassle, using a basic mobile phone that costs less than $10.
Research has shown that people who use financial services like mobile money, are more likely to lift themselves out of poverty, and stay out of poverty, compared with those who don’t.
However, having access to digital financial services is not enough. To fast track this development they need to use mobile banking for transactional beyond basic cash-in/cash-out and person-to-person transfers. They need to move to more complex uses such as saving for future development or borrowing to either cushion them from emergencies or help them exploit opportunities.
Across our Shujaaz media, we have been carrying out action research on what moves people from basic mobile transactions to these more advanced uses. In most cases a crisis affecting their lives or livelihoods prompts them to explore or discover new uses of mobile banking.
This led us to identify, certain types of characteristics. These are the heroes next door.