Short Summary

Bangla-Pesa is a complementary currency to the Kenyan national currency. Business members trade Bangla-Pesa (paper vouchers) for goods and services like "clothes washing, house building, transportation, tailoring, farming, food and drinks, electronic repairs, lamp oil, water, education and more" (source).

Website address:

Location: Bangladesh community, Mombasa, Kenya

Founder: Will Ruddick, founder of Bangla-Pesa and Grassroots Economics

The colorful Bangla-Pesa itself. source

A closeup of the 50 note. source


Bangla-Pesa's goals:

  • To shield Bangladesh's residents from poverty during periods of economic downturn—slum economies are more volatile than city economies, with few buffers against such periods
  • To revitalize the local economy, minimizing its market inefficiencies by "assist[ing] its members in trading their excess capacity" (source)

The Bangla Pesa was introduced to help residents get the basic necessities during periods of business downturns. They receive the alternative currency as vouchers to meet their excess needs, allowing them to trade with others at a time when things would normally be stagnant. It allows a full circle of trade, where our bike operator can buy his groceries, and the grocer can afford to transport their goods to the market. This increases market efficiency, which basically means that people are operating closer to their full economic potential. People in the slum’s dependency on their national currency and the volatility it brings is lifted, trade increases, and the markets stabilise. People’s needs are taken care of even during the hardest months of the year. (source)

Some numerical markers of Bangla-Pesa's success:

  • As of 2016, more than three million shillings worth of trade has occurred using Bangla-Pesa (source)
  • 83 percent of participants reported an increase in their total sales thanks to use of Bangla-Pesa (source)
  • 22 percent of daily sales by businesses occurred through Bangla-Pesa, likely in addition to existing sales via Kenyan shillings, which did not change (source)

Bangla-Pesa has been endorsed by the UN, the Hague, and the International Reciprocal Trade Association (source).

State authorities strongly opposed Bangla-Pesa, viewing it as a challenge to the shilling, Kenya's national currency. For this reason, in May 2013, Ruddick and four other participants were arrested and jailed. They were initially accused of planning a government overthrow in association with a secessionist terrorist group, but once disproven these charges were later reduced to forgery. Even for this, they could have been punished with as much as seven years' imprisonment. Eventually, however, the charges were dropped. More info on this legal situation can be found here.

YOUTUBE RmF8llVpi68 Short documentary about Bangla-Pesa

YOUTUBE WlIx6mseT08 2019 KTN News Kenya report about Bangla-Pesa


In the process of establishing Bangla-Pesa, more than 200 small businesses (or "microenterprises") registered as members of the Bangladesh Business Network, agreeing to take Bangla-Pesa for their goods and services. In addition, all microenterprises must be endorsed by four members to gain membership.

Friends & Partners


According to Will Ruddick, members of the Bangla-Pesa network "can accept only as much Bangla-Pesa as they can use in one day for local needs, like food and water" (source). More specifically, no user can possess over 400 Bangla-Pesa at once.

YOUTUBE SQrnN5QXdVM 2013 interview with a cobbler who uses Bangla-Pesa

Origin Story

Working together with several dozen small business owners in the Kenyan informal settlement (or slum) of Bangladesh, community development specialist Will Ruddick founded Bangla-Pesa in 2013.

According to Ruddick,

"[Bangla-Pesa] was first introduced in Kisumu Ndogo, Shauri Yako and Mnazi Mmoja slums in Kongowea. A number of us brought the idea to Bangladesh in March 2013 as a way to strengthen and stabilize the economy of the neighborhood." (source)

See Also