August 11, 2022
I’m old fashioned. It’s no secret. My family considers me the human form of a fossilized rock. My sister especially, she’s one of those people, ‘tech-savvy’ they call them, I just call them obnoxious.

For my part, I like traditional things. Or well, as traditional as possible without degenerating to smoke signals and drum beats.

Handwritten notes, not typed. Calls, never texts. And the cardinal rule: cash, cold, hard cash.

But recently, my sister, Adul dragged me along on one of her whirlwind days shopping for her kids. I doubt Adul remembers what money looks like. Her signature line is ‘I don’t have cash on me, M-PESA?’

Anyway, this woman made me her team of one as she struggled with other last-minute parents to do the back to school ritual.

We began at the supermarket to shop for my nephews. My role as henchman here was to duck, dive and squeeze through the masses of people to grab soap, sugar, toothpaste and whatever else my nephews needed for school.

After making it through that war, the next battle was patience because the lines would have put Mugo’s train prophecy to shame. 

Finally, we got to the cashier: a man who looked like he’d been through three lifetimes at just a little past 11.00 a.m.

I shot him a sympathetic smile that didn’t register.

I see Adul tapping her phone screen.

“Adul. This is no time to be on twitter or whatever,” I whisper viciously, “Pay so we can go.”

Forever the picture of calm, my sister continues unfazed:

“Relax bana. I always Lipa na M-PESA.”

To her credit, Adul is a mother of four. Shopping for all of them does to her bank account what Goldenberg did to treasury. 

Only budding mobsters or seasoned pickpockets would travel with that amount of money on their person. And my sister is neither (well, we hope).

One down, infinity more to go. The rest of the day involved more pushing, shoving, haggling and pleading.

By the time we were done we’d gone to: a bookshop, a shoe store, the market, a kahotel that can only be described as a glorified canteen. And fundis – a collection of fundis. We must have colonised all the shops in the area. Shoes, clothes, wood, radio…I mean, my sister must have been carrying all the broken, torn, and to-be-fixed things around the house and brought them with her.

A fundi working under tree.

But the thing with Adul, she is consistent, and loyal to a fault. We must have been to every business within a driving distance and this woman, at the end of every transaction would ask simply, “ Lipa na M-PESA?”

And you know what, from the supermarkets right down to the woman who sold us mango juice on the roadside, all of them accepted Lipa na M-PESA. Without fail.

What left me really incredulous was the small kiosk we stopped at because Adul needed, yes needed, to buy tropicals. 

And this woman, without batting an eyelash, pulls out her phone 4 mints down and pays 10 bob to the Buy Goods number hanging from a small nail on the wall.

Now, I’m not completely turned to stone. After my day with Adul, I did a little digging on my own, figure out why everyone is on the Lipa na M-PESA train. 

The kiosk guy, Nyamwea, told me that for him it’s the convenience of it. That he doesn’t need to go looking for change.

After a few hours dragging my feet through Google, I daresay I am now a believer. 

There are so many things you can use Lipa na M-PESA for.: buy fuel, pay bills, pay your landlord, online shopping, clearing school fees and as we’d done with Adul, pay for shopping.

Safaricom is also doing a promotion. Granted, I do not live under a rock, much as I pretend at it. I heard about the promotion (mostly from the texts they sent to my phone). But I had not really invested much thought into it.

It turns out it’s a pretty sweet deal. They’re giving out 6 houses, 8 tractors and surprise cashback gifts daily as well.

I wanted to know if I qualified, turns out all I need to do is spend 100 or more on Lipa na M-PESA and I’m awarded an entry. I just turned 20, even though as my family quips, I act like a 60-year-old grandmother. The prescribed minimum age is 18.

Teens smiling up at camera.

Charlatans in Nairobi are, however, a landmark in themselves. I wanted to be clear on how they’d select the winner before I ended up the victim of a con.

According to their website, the winner will be automatically selected by a random computer selection. Draws will be done daily for the cashback prizes and weekly for the houses. That means, anyone, literally anyone could win!

Those who win the tractor with plough and trailer will be notified at the end of the draw.

All winners will be published in the local dailies, radio, television and Safaricom’s website.

Safaricom will call not less than 6 times over a period of 48 hours using their official number 0722 000 000.

They also made it clear, for us the skeptics, that they will not ask for any money from those who’ll stumble upon their own leprechaun at the end of a rainbow.

The more, I think about, the more convinced I become that I am fully a convertee to the religion of the great Adul and our hallowed mantra, “I don’t have cash, Lipa na M-PESA?”

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