Bangla-Pesa is a social community-backed currency/voucher. They are only accepted in an impoverished settlement called Bangladesh near the city of Mombasa, Kenya. The Banga-Pesa voucher are only allowed to circulate within the registered members who use it as a credit system plan and are expected to repay it after getting Kenyan money (shilling) later. The currency, which was introduced by Koru, a Mombasa-based non-profit organization, is not designed to be an alternative to the Kenyan shilling, but rather to complement it by boosting economic activity in Bangladesh, where shillings are scarce. Some 200 businesses have agreed to accept the currency, and in return, each has been awarded a credit of 400 Bangla-Pesa.
That credit works like a zero-interest loan. Every new business that joins the Bangladesh Business Network/Bangla-Pesa network must be supported by four guarantors who are already members. If the new business spends its 400 Bangla-Pesa, then fails to earn as much back, its guarantors must make up the difference, or all five businesses will be ejected from the network and forced to pay back the debt directly in goods and services.
The organization, Koru, is a registered community-based group. The aim of the initiative is to support the locals to trade and save more money for developments.
“Bangla-Pesa is a program to strengthen and stabilise the economy of the informal settlement of Bangladesh by organising its more than 200 small-scale businesses into a Bangla Business Network, through which its members can utilise a complimentary currency to mediate trades,” reads part of the introduction statement on Koru’s website. Ruddick, the co-founder of the project, says their objective is to help the members trade their excess capacity among themselves.
When the concept first hit the Coastal town of Mombasa, State agencies including the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) panicked. They feared the complimentary currency voucher circulating in Bangladesh area, Mombasa County, might replace the shilling, Kenya’s legal currency. The founders and members of the initiative found themselves in court for allegedly using illegal currency to transact business. They, however, were released later.
Anyway, it is thrilling to know that there is small Bangladesh in Kenya where people are working hard to improve their lives.
Is a currency like Bangla-Pesa unheard of? Not really, indeed, there are many other examples of social or complementary currencies like Bangla-Pesa. Here’s is a list. So why Bangla-Pesa is special? Well, just because it is BANGLA-PESA! 🙂