Kenyans Find the Unintended Consequences of Mobile Money

Photograph by Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg

In Western Kenya, “Sambaza” is both a marketing slogan and means for despair. It means “to spread.” Vodafone-owned Safaricom, the dominant mobile provider in Kenya, uses it as a brand name for a service that allows customers to transfer airtime to each other. According to a new study (pdf) funded by the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMFTI), the word has also come to refer to the way money in a mobile account slips away, drip by drip, as friends and family ask for favors.

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