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Free Content The unbearable lightness of digital money

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This paper examines the factors that make cash ‘sticky’ in the increasingly digitised Kenyan financial landscapes. On the one hand, it discusses the mismatch between assumptions implicit in the financial inclusion discourse and ideas of saving, accumulation and money enshrined in local financial practices, and provides an overview of the current digital payment situ­ation in Kenya, in terms of strategies and data. On the other hand, it draws insights from industry efforts in which industry expectations are tested against a background shaped by the dominance of cash and traditional financial institutions. The overall goal is to further the understanding of potential drivers and challenges of ‘cash-lite’ approaches to financial inclusion, as well as the convergence and divergence of theory and evidence. This study uses qualitative methods of data collection to understand the social, cultural and economic drivers of payment behaviours, and the opportunities and constraints for adoption and acceptance of technology. It argues that the enduring reliance on cash suggests that a rational calculative approach is not adequate to understand people’s decision making when considering different options in a repertoire of financial alternatives. Most importantly, the materiality of cash affects its pragmatics within a broader repertoire of financial practices revolving around different means of payment and storages of value. It thus recommends that an approach to the design of e-payment systems should not only be largely ‘open-source’ for ease of interoperability with other payment systems, but also localised, to converge with local contexts.
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Keywords: Kenya; cash-lite; digital payments; financial inclusion; mobile money; social networks

Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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  • Journal of Payments Strategy & Systems publishes peer-reviewed articles and case studies analysing best practice, emerging issues and new thinking in how to develop a profitable, customer-focused payments strategy. It examines major issues facing the corporate, wholesale and retail payments industry from a business, risk and operational perspective.

    Edited by renowned payments expert Alec Nacamuli and guided by an eminent Editorial Board, each quarterly 100-page issue provides practical, detailed analysis of developments and trends in the payments business, regulation, new entrants and technologies and how to bring them all together to define your payments strategy, as well as actionable advice and ‘lessons learned’ from fellow professionals on how payment processing systems can be leveraged to maximise profitability, security and efficiency and minimise risk. It contains no advertising and no advertorial.

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