Savings for the Poor in Kenya

Kenya’s financial market has caught the world’s attention. The rise of mobile money in Kenya has become the interest of financial inclusion experts, the excitement of mobile network operators, and an opportunity for financial institutions to rethink their products and services. However, the implications and transformative impact of mobile money and other related innovations in the financial landscape are often much less examined and understood.

Through informant interviews, secondary research, and data collection at all levels of Kenya’s financial market including with financial institutions, researchers, mobile network operators, and government regulators, this study examines the changing savings landscape in Kenya and highlights innovations in product development, approaches, regulations, and technologies.Looking at recently collected savings data as well as new ways to visualize and interpret existing data, the report argues the following:

  • Demand for savings services has helped transform the bottom of the pyramid into a competitive market space open to a wide range of new and dynamic players.
  • Kenya has established itself as a global technology pioneer through innovations with mobile money and agent banking that are further reaching the poor.
  • Kenya’s commitment to fostering and opening up financial data is paving the way not only for Africa, but is proving to be a role-model for United States and other developed countries.

Overall, the evolution of Kenya’s economy continues to be shaped by various barriers to the formal financial system. They conclude that demand and supply-side data are at the heart of identifying and addressing the issues around these barriers and are fundamental to creating a comprehensive strategy for financial inclusion and overall economic growth. As Kenya moves to become a middle-income country in the near future, savings for the poor are on path to emerge as a central pillar of the country’s poverty reduction strategy.

This report was made possible by support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is the second exploratory savings landscape country study conducted by the Savings for the Poor Innovation and Knowledge Network (SPINNAKER). The goal of the study was to not only capture the range of savings products for the poor and identify opportunities for further innovative development, but also to help develop data gathering instruments and approaches and identify gaps for future research. In summary, the research objectives of the study were the following:

  • To explore the landscape of savings products for the poor in Kenya, including mobile money’s impact and the response of formal financial institutions to its emergence.
  • To bring out insights on product innovation and development in order to examine what features make a savings product accessible and useful to the poor.
  • To identify gaps for future research on savings product demand, usage, and evaluation.

To provide a comprehensive examination of the Kenya savings landscape, the study surveyed 104 products across 20 financial institutions and conducted key informant interviews with three stakeholder groups: 1) practitioners, 2) regulatory bodies, and 3) networks.

Please click here for the full report.

In addition, data from the study is available on an interactive data page located here.


Savings for the Poor in Kenya


Anjana Ravi
Eric Tyler