• Virtual trade

    Virtual trade

    Blockchain technology is proving to be a lifeline for residents of a Kenyan informal settlement during the COVID-19 economic downturn.

    Called Sarafu and developed in part by Nairobi-based social enterprise Grassroots Economics, the digital community currency can be used by residents of Mukuru Kayiaba to buy essentials only – such as food, water and sanitaryware – from local vendors, as well as pay for education.

    According to Reuters, it was launched in 2019 but has gained more traction in recent months because of the pandemic. About one-third of the vendors and 4 000 residents in the settlement have registered with the platform, and it can make up to KSH1 million in transactions a day.

    Once a week each family is given KES400 in virtual vouchers, which are used to pay the vendors, who can then send them on to Grassroots Economics to redeem them for cash, explains Roy Odhiamba of the Kenyan Red Cross Society, one of the organisations behind the roll-out of Sarafu.

    26 January 2021
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images