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Monetary theory and electronic money : reflections on the Kenyan experience

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  • William Jack
  • Tavneet Suri
  • Robert M. Townsend

Abstract

This article uses a class of models of money and the payments system to inform an analysis of "mobile banking" in the context of the rapid expansion of M-PESA, a new technology in Kenya that allows payments via mobile phones (even without any access to a bank account), and currently reaches close to 38 percent of Kenyan adults. The separation of households and firms in space and time suggests, in theory, from various separate models, a number of implications. These include (i) the potential gain, under some circumstances, from allowing net e-money credit creation, (ii) the impact that the associated enhancement of credit markets can have on monetary policy and on the real economy, (iii) the roles that e-money could play not only in credit but also in insurance, unrelated to its payment function, (iv) the potential role for an activist monetary policy and e-money management, (v) the role of e-money as a circulating private debt and as a store of value though with potential coordination problems associated with achieving balanced security transformation, (vi) the potential welfare losses from insisting on continuous net clearing of cash and e-money and the difficulty, in any event, of achieving this in practice, and (vii) the management of shortages in the context of fixed rates of exchange of e-money for cash. We provide some summary statistics from data collected on M-PESA agents and users that are reminiscent of the environments of the models and that support some of these implications. Other implications of the models suggest reforms to enhance the system's efficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • William Jack & Tavneet Suri & Robert M. Townsend, 2010. "Monetary theory and electronic money : reflections on the Kenyan experience," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue 1Q, pages 83-122.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedreq:y:2010:i:1q:p:83-122:n:v.96no.1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. John Bagnall & David Bounie & Kim P. Huynh & Anneke Kosse & Tobias Schmidt & Scott Schuh, 2016. "Consumer Cash Usage: A Cross-Country Comparison with Payment Diary Survey Data," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 12(4), pages 1-61, December.
    2. Marc Rysman & Scott Schuh, 2017. "New Innovations in Payments," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 27-48.
    3. Beck, Thorsten & Pamuk, Haki & Ramrattan, Ravindra & Uras, Rasim Burak, 2015. "Mobile Money, Trade Credit, and Economic Development: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 10848, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Katharina Michaelowa & Franziska Spörri, 2012. "ICT als Beschäftigungsmotor in den Entwicklungsländern?," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 81(3), pages 85-97.
    5. Jenny C. Aker & Rachid Boumnijel & Amanda McClelland & Niall Tierney, 2016. "Payment Mechanisms and Antipoverty Programs: Evidence from a Mobile Money Cash Transfer Experiment in Niger," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(1), pages 1-37.
    6. J Paul Dunne & Elizabeth Kasekende, 2017. "Mobile Money and Household Consumption Patterns in Uganda," SALDRU Working Papers 210, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    7. Hun Myoung Park & Mohammad Tarikul Islam, 2013. "Did Mobile Payments Make Difference in "Unbanked" Rural Communities? Empirical Evidence from the Electronic Money Transform System of the Bangladesh Post Office," Working Papers EMS_2013_13, Research Institute, International University of Japan.

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