Kenyans loathe wallets, study finds

May 19, 2010
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – It’s widely acknowledged that Kenyans are a peculiar lot – their love for freebies, politics and the knack for doing things at the last minute. Apparently, this also extends to how and where they keep their money and wallets are not their favourite choice.

Capital News recently conducted a survey in Nairobi to find out where Kenyans keep their money and what we found out was not entirely shocking!

“I don’t keep money in the wallet, reason being when you are walking on the streets and you happen to meet with policemen or thugs, the first thing they will go for is your wallet and if that happens then you are likely to lose all your cash,” says Kioko a garbage collector in the city.

Such people have developed ‘ingenious’ places of keeping their loot; places they believe a potential thug or a rogue cop would have to work very hard to reach it.

“I tuck it inside my shoe where it would be hard for anyone to reach. I even use cello tape to make sure that it’s safely secure,” Kioko says with a chuckle.

Others keep it in socks, bras and inner wear; all in a bid to ensure that they don’t lose it to undeserving third parties with sticky fingers.

What is even more peculiar is that some people choose to scribble on currency notes hoping that that particular note will do full circle and come back to them.

But did you know these ‘peculiar ways’ of handling money shorten the shelf life of the currency note?

Central Bank of Kenya Director of Currency Operations and Branch Administration James Lopoyetum says Sh500 and Sh1000 notes have a shelf life of about two years while that of the Sh50 and Sh100 notes is between six to 12 months. Rarely, however, do they get to complete this life cycle.

The CBK is trying to implement a ‘clean bank notes policy’ which means that it wants to circulate clean notes and destroy the old ones. The mishandling of notes therefore means that the taxpayer has to pay Sh10 for every note that is re-printed.

It is not only the mishandling or over-handling of cash that presents a challenge to the Central Bank. Despite the fact that Kenyans – like probably every other person in the world – love this precious commodity called money, many of them do not really know how their money looks like.

How many people, for example, know what image is at the back of the Sh50 note, or the Sh100, Sh200, Sh500, or even the Sh1,000?

Mr Lopoyetum says there are some of the challenges that have prompted CBK to consider conducted public awareness campaigns through which they can sensitise people on not only how to handle money but also how ‘to know their money’.

Such knowledge would also help the public to distinguish between genuine and fake notes and thus help fight counterfeits in the market.

The counterfeit level in the country is 0.001 percent of the cash in circulation which according to CBK is minimal. However, even though negligible, they would still like to further lower this figure.

Empowering police officers so that they can net the culprits, educating the public on the special features that they need to look out for to avoid being duped by counterfeiters as well as coming up with notes that visually impaired people can easily recognize are all initiatives that they are implementing to achieve this goal.

This will particularly be important because Kenyans are highly dependent on cash for day-to-day transactions. On average, Currency in Circulation, which is the amount of money that is outside Central Bank is at 5.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

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