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Bangla-Pesa

bangla-pesa

Introduction

Bangla-Pesa is a complementary currency launched in Bangladesh, an impoverished suburb of Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa. Introduced in May 2013 by Koru (a local NGO), it seeks to strengthen and stabilise the local economy. More than 200 local small businesses have joined the Bangladesh Business Network (BBN), through which they can make use of the complementary currency 1. The Bangla-Pesa is a unit of credit within this mutual-credit clearing (or multilateral reciprocal exchange) system which provides a means of payment that is complementary to official money.

Purpose

Bangla-Pesa is designed to stimulate local economic activity as part of a poverty reduction program. By making available a complementary means of payment for local businesses, it increases the possibilities for businesses to trade their excess capacity mainly because the BBN acts as a mutual credit clearing system. This complementary currency also seeks to create a buffer against any fluctuation in the money supply due to remittances, weather, holidays, sending children to school, political turmoil etc. 2.

Community Overview

The network consists of 200 small businesses, of which 75% is made up of women business owners. Enrolled businesses perform services including, for example, clothes washing, tailoring, manual laborer, house builders, salons, mechanical and electronic repairs, porting etc 3.

Organisation and History

Bangla-Pesa is an initiative started by a non-for-profit Community Based Organisation, Kuru, based in Mombasa, Kenya and founded by Jacky Kowa and William Ruddick.

After two weeks of operation of Bangla-Pesa, Kenya’s Government had arrested six coordinators of the scheme (including Ruddick), charging them with fraudulent forgery and for being in possession of illegal currency. After three months of investigations, the Central Bank of Kenya dropped all accusations and terminated the case 4. The currency resumed operation and even received governmental requests to replicate the program in other places in Kenya and one pilot area in South Africa.

Impact

A survey of participants of the BBN produced some impressive results with about 83% of respondents responding that their total sales had increased since the implementation of the Bangla-Pesa. Partipants identified that about 22% of their average daily sales were now being conducted through Bangla-pesa. Importantly however their sales in local shillings had remained at the same level as before the introduction of the Bangla-pesa, which suggests that the 22% conducted in Bangla-pesa really does represent extra sales that would not have happened without the introduction of the local currency. The net effect of the currency therefore appears to have expanded the potential market in the slum.

Currency Details

a.       The Bangla-Pesa in numbers

A week after launch, businesses reported using circa 70 Bangla-Pesa each day for purchases at 4 other businesses on average. Similarly, business owners reported in a survey of receiving on average 65 Bangla-Pesa each day at their businesses from around 4 other members. Kuru is expected to publish a detailed report on Bangla-Pesa’s performance by the end of 2013.

b.      Function

Bangla-Pesa primarily acts as unit of exchange of credits within the mutual credit clearing system established through the BBN.

c.       Issuance – Backing

Bangla-Pesa are issued as paper vouchers denominated in 5, 10, 20 and 50. An electronic version of the currency operating through mobile phones might be launched at the end of 2013.

Bangla-Pesa is mutually issued by BBN members and backed, in the widest sense of the word, in that there are contractual mechanisms through which money can be recuperated from businesses should the need arise. This mutual credit system creates a form of interest-free credit that the community members can use when the national currency is scarce.

d.  Membership fees

Enrolled businesses pay a membership fee to the BBN. The fee is used to cover administration, marketing and community programs costs.

How it works?

In order to become a member of the BBN a business needs to complete a registration form and be backed by at least 4 current members of the scheme, who act as guarantors. A committee then reviews that application and decides whether to admit the new member. Once admitted the new business member is allocated 400 BP, of which 200 is kept to be spent on social projects.  The business can then spend their BP with other businesses in the network. Their statutes state that no one should have a total balance of more than 400 BP. If a member has a balance approaching 400 BP they need to spend it before they accept more.

References

  1. Koru, (2013) The Bangla-Pesa, accessed on 30 September 2013 at <http://koru.or.ke/bangla>
  2. Koru, (2013) The Bangla-Pesa, accessed on 30 September 2013 at <http://koru.or.ke/bangla>
  3. Koru, (2013) The Bangla-Pesa, accessed on 30 September 2013 at <http://koru.or.ke/bangla>
  4. Koru, (2013 1) Bangla-Pesa Charges Dropped, accessed on 30 September 2013 at < http://koru.or.ke/bangla-pesa-charges-dropped>
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