Digital Technology and State Capacity in Kenya

Njuguna Ndung’u
August 06, 2019


Following the launch of M-Pesa in 2007, Kenya has emerged as a global leader in the development of mobile money and in increasing rates of financial inclusion. This paper shows how M-Pesa’s success has led to a series of endogenous innovations that have shaped Kenya’s digital space, placing it ahead of other developing economies in the region in the deployment and use of digital technology. It also explains how the mobile financial services revolution enabled the government to implement its e-governance strategy to better provide a range of services and opportunities to beneficiaries of public programs, business, taxpayers and investors, as well as dynamizing the private sector.

At the same time, even as it contributes to strengthening state capacity, the digital revolution makes new demands on the state, and the paper outlines several important challenges that Kenya will need to address in order to further consolidate its success. These include improving connectivity across the country, ensuring a fully interoperable mobile payments platform and implementing measures to strengthen consumer protection. Another important focus for the future is to transition to a fully digital identification (e-ID) system. The thrust of the paper is to provide inspiration and guidance for other countries to use Kenya’s achievements as an example.

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