Mobile Money for the unbanked - A historical materialist analysis of the financialisation of remittances in Kenya

Authors: Julia Maisenbacher*, University of Lausanne
Topics: Development, Migration, Africa
Keywords: financialisation, remittances, Kenya, banking the unbanked, transnational capital
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Capitol Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Remittances have become a key source of financing for development. During the last decade, many developing countries have witnessed the increasing significance of the financial market and financial services in receiving and sending remittances – a process also considered as the financialisation of remittances. In Kenya, one key instrument driving the financialisation of remittances is the mobile money transfer and microfinance service M-Pesa. M-Pesa is expected to reduce poverty, create employment and improve the wellbeing of people. It is often presented as a win-win solution: the poor are enabled to save and invest their remittances more efficiently while the financial market expands and an array of philantrocapitalist foundations and corporations are ‘doing well while doing good’. Drawing on a historical materialist approach, this article analyses the emergence and the specific manifestation of the financialisation of remittances in Kenya by taking the development of M-PESA as an illustration. This article focuses on the contesting social forces which have shaped the emergence of the financialisation of remittances in Kenya. It analyses the establishment of M-Pesa against the background of the dominance of a powerful transnational capital fraction that benefits from a debt-led accumulation regime.

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