Ideas & Updates

The Better Than Cash Journey: Kenya and Rwanda

This is the third in a series of articles written by Maura Hart on the achievements of several Better Than Cash Alliance members. These highlights capture the innovative work by governments, businesses and development organizations to fulfill their commitment to transition from cash to digital payments.

Rwanda: A Transition To Digital Government Payments

The Government of Rwanda joined the Better Than Cash Alliance in October 2014. In that short time, the country’s commitment to digital payments has continued to build toward its goal of a cashless economy with 80 percent financial inclusion by 2017.

According to the 2014 Global Findex report by the World Bank, only 18.3 percent of the poorest 40 percent of Rwandans have a bank account. The Government of Rwanda aims to fill this gap by building an inclusive digital financial ecosystem. And they are already well on their way.

The Better Than Cash Journey: Kenya and Rwanda-1

Withdrawing money through ATMs. Photo credit: Government of Rwanda.

All government employee salaries in Rwanda are already paid digitally and efforts are underway to transition all government payments to digital.

Rwanda is also working to expand the use of digital banking and retail transactions, including fuel stations, by merchants and customers throughout the country.

Just this spring, Rwanda was ranked first by the World Economic Forum for Government Success in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) promotion to drive social and economic transformation.

The Rwanda Revenue Authority has also just announced a partnership with telecommunications company MTN Rwanda to offer citizens a way to pay their taxes digitally using a mobile money platform.

Kenya: A Digital Payment System For Nairobi Commuters

As one of the founding government members of the Better Than Cash Alliance, Kenya has been a world leader in digitizing payments using mobile money. According to the 2014 Global Findex report, 52 percent of the adult population has a mobile money account, thanks in part to the popular M-PESA platform. This is the highest of any country in the world!

Since 2009, the government has nurtured this progress and moved virtually all government payments from cash or checks to digital payments. This has not only increased transparency and saved the government money by increasing efficiency; it has modernized Kenya’s economic structure and helped individuals and small business gain access to formal financial services.

Kenya’s commitment to an inclusive digital financial ecosystem has made way for the development of truly innovative and ambitious digital payment projects, one of which stands to benefit the tens of thousands of public transportation commuters in Kenya.

The MY1963 Cashless initiative in Nairobi. Photo credit:

At the end of last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta, alongside the Matatu Owners Association, announced a digital payment system called My 1963 for Nairobi commuters. The MY1963 Cashless Card holds many benefits for commuters. The card allows them to get home on credit and can be topped up by Safaricom’s M-Pesa or My1963 card agents. Registration is free,and a commuter needs to only have a valid phone number, a National ID number, and their date of birth to create an account.

The new fare system, launched in partnership with Safaricom and other organizations, using prepaid cards linked to M-PESA accounts, is expected to revolutionize and bring transparency to the public transport industry.