Living on Little: Navigating financial scarcity in modern Kenya

Authored by: Julie Zollmann
November 16, 2020 - 1 min read
Living on little_Julie Zollmann

Living on very little money doesn’t just mean that you worry about how to feed your family and pay rent. It also means that you have a narrow set of choices about whom to marry and what kinds of marital discretions to forgive. It means making heartbreaking tradeoffs between paying for education or healthcare. Where there are weak government institutions and labor markets, it often means that the cost of playing by the rules is untenable, pushing people into illicit markets and making bribery practically inevitable.

Julie Zollman, a researcher at BFA Global, recently launched her book Living on Little: Navigating Financial Scarcity in Modern Kenya, at the 6th annual FSD Kenya lecture, based on FSD Kenya’s Financial Diaries project. The book demonstrates the many deep and overlooked ways that scarcity shapes the lives of ordinary Kenyans, drawing on four years of systematic research with nearly 300 low-income families. A close examination of ordinary Kenyans lives showcases their optimistic and ambitious pursuit of the maendeleo (development) mission, a mission often thwarted by structural barriers and inequalities. How might the financial sector finance—and private enterprise more broadly—reimagine their roles in building a truly inclusive economy for all?


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