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Alternative currency to fight poverty

How can people in slums increase their businesses - even when they don't have enough money to buy food every day ?

Photo of Elsa Ignerski
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One solution found by residents in a slum on Kenya’s coast is simply to print their own money.For a year now, more than 180 local businesses in what is called the "Bangladesh" slum near the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa have used their own colorful currency alongside the Kenya shilling.

It is called "Bangla-Pesa." It is slightly larger than a dollar, comes in 5s, 10s, and 20s, and is helping to stimulate trade in one of Kenya’s most neglected places by its use in businesses, churches, and schools.

Bangla-Pesa works by allowing barter between small business owners. Since Bangla-Pesa is accepted only in "Bangladesh," the cash stays in the community, allowing people to save their Kenyan shillings for bigger purchases. 

The Bangla-Pesa is Africa's first alternative currency and is designed to fight poverty and is apparently having a good effect.

Ruddick's data finds that Bangla-Pesa users come out ahead by an average of 84 shillings a day, equivalent to 98 cents. That sounds like a tiny increase, but for people living on a few dollars a day, it represents 16 percent more spending power.

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Great global share, Elsa!