Kenyan mobile money and the hype of messy statistics

By Susan Johnson

The hype around the success of mobile money in Kenya has been growing as mobile payments develop both there and worldwide. This week’s Economist cites a figure that 43% of Kenyan GDP is being channelled through M-Pesa each year, attributing the statistic to Safaricom itself. The figure has been rising from 31% last year, which was cited by both The Economist and the Financial Times. In August 2013, GSM Association released an infographic on “The Kenyan Journey to Digital Financial Inclusion”, which also used the 31% figure. The World Bank, CGAP, AFI and others have also used or cited such measures of progress in this field. Continue reading

Why the Gender Dummy doesn’t speak: Explaining the gender gap in financial inclusion

By Susan Johnson

Recent research has given us much better data on the difference in access to formal financial services between men and women.  The figure below gives these gaps by region based on the Global Findex dataset.  With this evidence for the gender gap, what we really want to know is: what it is about being a woman or man that creates the gap?   That is, are these gaps the result of factors such as women having less education, lower incomes and being less likely to have formal employment? Or do they arise from legal factors such as property rights, inheritance rights, gender norms about autonomy, mobility, etc.? Or, perhaps women behave inherently differently and are more risk averse. Or does being a woman matter for another reason, even when all these factors are taken into account?  If it does, then we might need to look further for other sources of discrimination in the market. These might include the behaviour of the financial institutions themselves.

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Complementary currencies – contrasting fates?: M-Pesa and Bangla Pesa in Kenya

By Susan Johnson

M-Pesa in Kenya is lauded as the world’s leading example of a mobile money transfer service. Users walk into an agent’s shop and hand over Kenyan shillings, in return for which e-value is loaded onto their mobile phone at a one-for-one exchange rate. The menu in the phone is then Continue reading

‘Randomistas’ and microcredit: Shutting the evidence gate after the policy horse has bolted?

By Susan Johnson

Microfinance is one area of development intervention that has experienced increased use of randomised control trials (RCTs) in the last few years, now seen by many as the ‘gold standard’ methodology for assessing impact.  The gold standard approach to telling us what the findings impact studies collectively amount to is the systematic review. Since great claims for poverty reduction have been made for the impact of microcredit programmes in the past, the demand for evidence in this field is very high.  Two  recent DFID funded systematic reviews in this field have between them been downloaded more than 15,000 times, whereas DFID funded systematic reviews on other topics have had a few hundred downloads at most. Continue reading