Nairobi Slum Offers Test Bed for Tech Helping the World’s Unbanked
By Anthony Cuthbertson
In the slums of West Nairobi, up a plastic-pockmarked street lined with ditches flowing with sewage, is Kaka Shop. Selling everything from bread and eggs to candy and scratch cards, it is a convenience store similar to hundreds of others serving the Kawangware district of Kenya’s capital—except for one invisible difference.
Kaka Shop is patient zero in a financial experiment aimed at digitizing the world’s unbanked. Starting in the poorest regions of East Africa and—if successful—spreading to other developing nations, like India, a new platform called Kionect is aiming to provide basic financial services and security to people and businesses forgotten by the formal economy.
The owner of Kaka Shop is 23-year-old David Jackson, or Kaka, as he is known locally. He is a typical millennial, equipped with a smartphone, ambition and self-belief. Only his surroundings are a developing-nation slum, or “informal settlement,” as the Kenyan government prefers to refer to it. Having saved for two years working as a tomato farmer, Jackson bought the shop at the beginning of 2017 to help support his younger siblings living with his elderly parents in neighboring Tanzania.
“I am very happy here, but I dream of even more,” Jackson tells Newsweek. As he talks outside his storefront, children interrupt him to buy single candies for less than a cent. He ducks back in to serve them.