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Susan Njeri starts her workday at 4 a.m., leaving her home in Nairobi hours before her three children wake for school. In the pre-dawn glow, she sets up her food stand for her first customers of the day.
Njeri’s humble stand, situated in the bustling Woodley Jamhuri open-air market in the Kenyan capital, is a sensory explosion. Bright red tomatoes are piled high alongside stacks of oranges and limes. Pineapples stand on end; corn and knobby root vegetables compete for customers’ attention. Loyal clients have been seeking out her goods for more than a decade, and they keep coming back.
“I run a small grocery business,” she tells Fortune , “but now it is growing. A lot.”
That’s no small boast.
Kenya, like most emerging economies, has been hard hit in the past two years by a one-two punch of COVID, followed by inflation. The latest government data from January showed consumer prices have jumped more than 8% from pre-pandemic levels, sapping the purchasing power of ordinary Kenyans—including Njeri’s customers. The damaging effects of rapidly rising prices can quickly domino on small businesses, too, particularly those that are unable to track and forecast input costs.
Still, Njeri’s business has been faring well, she contends. Despite the uncertainty in the wider economy, she’s hired an additional two women to keep the business operating through the late-evening hours, seven days a week.
She credits part of her success to an intuitive piece of payments-and-accounting software that she can pull up on her smartphone. The app, called M-Pesa for Business, tracks in real-time the money flowing in and out of her business. She knows, for example, the moment she turns a profit for the day. That kind of data brings peace of mind in uncertain economic times, she says. With a few taps she can use the application to pay off her business suppliers, or transfer funds to her bank account. She can also use it to purchase something at a nearby stand to bring home to the family. Older than the iPhone
The app Njeri relies on went live a year ago, but the mobile-money platform it sits on, M-Pesa, is hardly new to Kenyans: “pesa” is Swahili for money, and “M” is a reference to mobile. Launched in 2007 by Vodafone and […]