Both papers are available online:
E. S. Mattsson, T. Criscione and W.O. Ruddick, Sarafu Community Inclusion Currency, 2020-2021. Scientific Data 9:426, Nature Publishing Group, 2022. Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-022-01539-4
We describe a dataset of account information and detailed transaction records for a digital complementary currency in Kenya. This “Sarafu system” initially encompassed several local, physical community currencies, which began transitioning to a feature-phone mobile interface in 2017. One unit of “Sarafu” is roughly equivalent in value to a Kenyan shilling. The published data includes anonymized account information for around 55,000 users and records of all Sarafu transactions conducted from January 25, 2020 to June 15, 2021. Transactions totaling around 300 million Sarafu capture various economic and financial activities such as purchases, transfers, and participation in savings and lending groups. So-called “chamas” are key to the operation of the Sarafu system and many such groups are labeled in the data. Describing this data contributes to research on the operation of community currencies, monetary systems, and economic networks in marginalized, food insecure areas. The observation period includes the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and several documented pilot projects and interventions.
Circulation is the characteristic feature of successful currency systems, from community currencies to cryptocurrencies to national currencies. In this paper, we propose a network analysis methodology for studying circulation given a system’s digital transaction records. This is applied to Sarafu, a digital community currency active in Kenya over a period that saw considerable economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representing Sarafu as a network of monetary flow among the 40,000 users reveals meaningful patterns at multiple scales. Circulation was highly modular, geographically localized, and occurring among users with diverse livelihoods. Network centrality highlights women’s participation, early adopters, and the especially prominent role of community-based financial institutions. These findings have concrete implications for humanitarian and development policy, helping articulate when community currencies might best support interventions in marginalized areas. Overall, networks of monetary flow allow for studying circulation within digital currency systems at a striking level of detail.