Here in the first world, we’ve had our fill of Covid-19. Complaints among those of us who have been fortunate enough to have been unaffected from a health perspective have largely been left complaining about the isolation, boredom, or any other number of inconveniences.
In the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, the problems are a bit different. In the capital of this African nation, many still have to worry about having enough to eat, so every problem – especially something as disruptive as a global pandemic – is exacerbated. There has been a notable bright spot of late, however, and those taking advantage have the blockchain to thank. Those selling goods in the markets in the area typically sell their wares for shilling notes – the hard currency of Kenya. A new community inclusion currency, Sarafu, seems to be even better.
As an RNZ article notes, “Each week, families are issued with virtual vouchers worth 400 Kenyan shillings ($NZ5.60), which they can use to buy essential goods, said Roy Odhiambo, an innovation officer at Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), one of the groups behind the project. Vendors can then send the vouchers to Grassroots Economics, the Nairobi-based social enterprise that co-developed Sarafu (“coins” in English) with US-based engineering firm BlockScience, and redeem them for cash.”
Over 30% of the vendors in the area are already signed up and most seem to prefer the use of Sarafu, with one vendor even noting that she can receive payment immediately at the point of sale seamlessly, without the danger that someone will buy on credit only to leave her that much poorer. Count Isaac Makavu, who runs a kiosk in Mukuru, a believer in the new currency. Notes Makavu, “there have been no evictions in areas where Sarafu is being used by slum communities because they were able to pay their rent on time. No one is going to sleep hungry here because they have community currency.”