How to think about pesa in Kenya

How many of us think deeply about the pesa we use everyday? Here are 9 lenses we can look through to analyze all the pesa we use in Kenya today.

How many of us think deeply about the pesa we use everyday? In my experience, only a handful of us are conscious of the nuances of our day to day pesa. Yet, Kenya has one of the most colourful pesa diversity in the world. Bangla pesa, bonga points, Mpesa, Chama Pesa, Bitcoin, Cash and airtime are all part of Kenya’s money montage.

Here are 9 lenses we can look through to analyze all the pesa we use in Kenya today.

  1. Who is the issuer of your pesa?
  2. Is it backed by anything?
  3. What form does it take?
  4. How does it derive its price?
  5. What is the scope of its transferability?
  6. Is it redeemable?
  7. Where is it accepted?
  8. How is it acquired?
  9. Legality

Issuer of pesa

The issuance of pesa is its origin. Tracing the cycle of your money back to its source leads you to the issuer.

Is your pesa backed by anything?

Money backed by ‘something’ means there is more to the face value of your pesa. If you work back to its origin, you are likely to find where it derives its value.

What form is your pesa?

Pesa can either be tangible or intangible. It can also be physical or digital.

How does it derive its price?

Every unit of pesa we use has an associated price. Sometimes it is priced in KES, while other times in a foreign currency like the US dollar. But there are other instances where pesa could derive its price from a commodity like gold,  or by sheer market forces of demand and supply or even set by an authority or power.

Scope of transferability

Pesa can only be transferred within the confines of where it is recognized. All pesa is not created equal. How we exchange pesa from one person to another or person to biashara is a function of its transferability.

Can you redeem your pesa?

This characteristic is about the ex-changeability of your pesa. What can you exchange it for? Can you redeem it for cash? Can you redeem it for goods and services? Often this quality will vary for every pesa.

Where is it accepted?

This is where you can spend it. Which places will readily accept your pesa in return for goods or services? Pesa is only good if you can spend it somewhere or on something.

How is it acquired?

This is about how we get our hands on pesa. Some pesa is earned as a wage while other types are earned as rewards for being a loyal customers. Other times, we need to swap one type of pesa for another.


Finally, what does the law say about all these types of pesa? As we’ll find out later on, some are clearly defined by law while others are not defined while in rare cases, some are deemed illegal.

I plan to use this framework as a basis for unpacking the various types of pesa we use in Kenya. My intentions are to build on this foundation to explore where cryptocurrencies fit into Kenya’s future.


Author: Michael Kimani

Consultant, Entrepreneur, Researcher, Writer, Digital Assets Investor and Trader,

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