Kenya has a large rural population and low to moderate levels of education on average.
Most Kenyans rely on farming, self-employment or support from family and friends as their primary sources of income which are associated with high levels of uncertainty and volatility. Their high inclusion in formal financial systems is driven overwhelmingly by mobile money, with the penetration of other formal financial accounts less than half the level of mobile wallets.Informal, social financial channels have a penetration similar to formal institutions and remain an important source of financial support fore those who use them. There are clear opportunities for financial service providers to better meet the needs of Kenyans by helping them to prepare for emergencies, feel more confident meeting their expenses and access credit beyond what their families are able to offer.
Kenyans generally rely on either farming or self-employment as their primary source of income leading to relatively high levels of income volatility: only 22% know how much they will earn when they wake up each day, and just 20% report earning a consistent amount on a week to week basis. Thus, only 37% of Kenyans feel very or somewhat confident in being able to pay all of their household bills.
Kenyans do try to mitigate some of this income insecurity by planning, with three in five (62%) having a plan to pay for expenses, slightly above our cross-country averages. They are the least likely to report that they are “prepared to spend now and let the future take care of itself”, at just 35%. Still, they do struggle with expenses: consumers face the greatest difficulty paying for school fees and other personal items (44% had difficulty in the previous six months), and — strikingly — food and meals (43% reporting difficulty). About a fifth (19%) reports that they would not be able to raise emergency funds. A further 31% report it would “not be very possible”, and almost half (47%) believe they don’t earn enough to save.
Formal Financial Services
Kenyans are less likely to find financial services confusing or complex (41% say they are, while 45% say they are not — making Kenyans the most likely to find them straightforward), and nearly half believe that banks care about serving people like them (47%). Even so, only 38% of Kenyans have an account at a formal financial institution. With mobile wallet ownership rates reaching 88%, Kenyans may find less need to turn to banks for their financial needs.
Kenyans are strongly financially included, thanks to mobile money. The 88% penetration level is the highest of any country, and matches personal phone ownership rates for the country — expanding penetration could involve finding ways to increase phone ownership. Still, of those with mobile money accounts, 30% never use them to save and 58% never use them to borrow, showing that access is only the first step. With 66% of Kenyans having low-moderate deliberateness in their savings, the unstructured nature of mobile accounts may not lead to better savings habits.
Kenyans find it easier to trust banks (42%) than to trust people in their community (28%). Kenyans particularly distrust strangers (68%) needing to build longer-term relationships with someone before trusting them. Indeed, half of Kenyan participants have low or lowest levels of trust that their money will be repaid if they were to lend it to their community. Though they have the highest penetration of informal financial services among the focus countries (42% having such access), this suggests it may be more out of necessity and/or a better product offering, than any particular desire for Kenyans to manage their finances socially.