Relax, You’ve Got M-PESA: Leisure as Empowerment

Radhika Gajjala, Dinah Tetteh


M-PESA is a cellphone-based money transfer system which has been storied globally as a success in the Kenyan context. Our goal in this article is not to confirm or deny its success, nor is it to provide factual evidence of everyday actualities of M-PESA use in Kenya or elsewhere. Instead, our study focuses on how the marketing platforms provide discursive entry points for particular marginalized user-subject positions in the global staging of labor and consumption while contributing to a paradigm shift in information communication and technology for development (ICT4D) programs. Upon examination of much of the marketing material online for the Kenyan M-PESA model, we note that a key feature of promotional strategy is to highlight leisure and empowerment through the convenient use of mobile money tools. In this article, we examine leisurely exchange as part of the overall marketing of M-PESA in global ICT4D 2.0 (Heeks, 2009) cultures. We show how this happens by examining the online communication practices of social media participation on M-PESA-related YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter sites. We examine the role of marketing strategies using digital social space to build leisure networks by encouraging consumer participation. To this end we draw on select social media and visual texts to provide evidence for our analysis.

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