News / Africa

Kenyans Prioritizing Mobile Phone Over Food, Transport

A vendor hawks second-hand mobile phones at the sprawling Kibera slum, one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa, near Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 26, 2011.
A vendor hawks second-hand mobile phones at the sprawling Kibera slum, one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa, near Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 26, 2011.
Jill Craig
A recent study commissioned by the World Bank suggests that increasing numbers of Kenyans in the poorest socioeconomic group are foregoing food and transport or opting for cheaper alternatives, to buy credit to use mobile phones.

Mobile phones were once considered luxury goods in Kenya. But with decreasing prices, people of all socioeconomic levels have come to rely upon them for both personal and professional needs.

iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa recently released a study commissioned by the World Bank exploring mobile phone usage among Kenyans making less than $2.50 per day.

Angela Crandall, project manager at iHub Research, conducted research for the report. She says one out of five people interviewed for the report chose to forgo necessities like food or transport to purchase mobile phone credit. Some would eat cheaper food, such as rice and vegetables, instead of something more expensive like meat so they could buy credit. Crandall says there was a rationale to their decisions.

“What we realized was that the reason behind this was that these folks were foregoing because they thought that by using this money to call their friends or by having this airtime, that they could text someone, they actually could earn more money in the future," said Crandall. "So, basically by giving almost 60 cents right now, potentially by calling someone and getting a job, they could eventually earn 2,000 shillings [about $23], say tomorrow.”

Eighteen year-old Martha Bosibori sells mangoes in a market bordering Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. She says she has skipped meals to purchase mobile phone credit.

“Sometimes, you know, I’m hungry but I need to talk to someone, for example. So what I do; I just sacrifice that money and I don’t take that food. Then I buy that credit and use it to talk to that person who I was supposed to talk to,” she said.

Bosibori says that by giving up meals, she is able to make money through the business she gets by using her mobile phone.

"Okay, now for example, I have customers," she explained. "Here, I sell mangoes [and I] take some orders from maybe, let’s say, neighbors. They know that I sell mangoes. So sometimes, they call me and say, ‘Today Martha, you can just bring five mangoes.’ So I take their orders through the cell phone.”

Her colleague, Susan Wacera, sells jewelry in a nearby market stall. She often walks to work instead of using public transport for the same reason. “Instead of going with, going with matatu [public minibus], I decide to buy airtime, then I go with foot,” she said.

However, Crandall advises caution when analyzing this finding from the report.

"I definitely don’t want people to blow this out of proportion. And, the idea that the mobile phone is making people hungrier, I don’t think necessarily is true," she said. "Other studies have shown that actually when people at the base of the [economic] pyramid get more money, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll spend it on food. And so, I think this is a stereotype or mis-assumption that we make, that people at the BoP [base of the pyramid] are so hungry that any extra coin will go towards food. I don’t think it’s true because we found even a small, marginal income increase will actually go towards entertainment, so I think that this exemplifies that finding.”

Instead, she says that the study highlights the overall importance of mobile usage in Kenya among low-income brackets.

"I would say that it really shows the value that Kenyans are placing on potentially getting more money or even just the communication aspect of it,” Crandall explained.

The study found that on average, respondents who chose phone credits over expenditures on basic necessities, diminished their spending by about 83 cents per week.

The study also found that more than  60 percent of respondents among Kenya's poorest socioeconomic group own a mobile phone.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid