Short Summary

Sarafu-Credit is an interest-free community-based credit system used by over 1,200 businesses and 20 schools in 2017. Several Kenyan local currencies, such as Bangla-Pesa, Lindi-Pesa and Gatina-Pesa, belong to the system.

The full name is Sarafu-Credit, Grassroots Economics’ Kenyan Community Currency program. Sarafu means "currency" in Kiswahili.

Website address:

Location: Kenya


The currencies that belong to the Sarafu-Credit system are used exclusively in specific localities. They are complementary to the national currency, forming a stable medium of exchange when the Kenyan Shilling is insufficient, which is often the case in the neighborhoods where the currencies are used. All of them are located in informal settlements or slum areas.

Sarafu-Credit's goals are as follows:

  • To improve living standards and support the local economy by creating stable markets based on local development and trust
  • To provide access to interest-free credit
  • To offer a mechanism by which communities can "mobilize under-used resources" to satisfy basic needs such as food, education and environmental and health services
  • To foster resilience to changes in the market and other risks

YOUTUBE B-j1MdLAL7Y Al Jazeera segment on community currencies in Kenya.


A network of businesses, schools, self-employed and informal sector workers issue their own vouchers for social and environmental services and to give interest-free credit to the network members. These vouchers circulate in the community and can be used at any shop, school, clinic or cooperative businesses.
  1. Local goods and service providers come together as a network and are legally registered as a Community Based Organization (Chama) or Cooperative (SACCO).
  2. This cooperative develops or acquires a shared business, such as a factory, wholesale shop or bus.
  3. Inventory and profits from these cooperative businesses form the basis for a voucher issued as community currency. Each member is guaranteed by other members for an initial amount of credit and the community currency is also used for social service work (e.g., tree planting, employing local youth for waste collection or road maintenance).
  4. Business owners within the network trade both in Kenyan shillings and Sarafu-Credit. The community currency circulates within the community, helping to connect local supply and demand for people who lack regular access to national currency.
    “Credit acts as a strong buffer to market instability even during the worst economic times.” (Grassroots Economics)
  5. Community Currency holders may also use any excess to purchase cooperative business inventory. For example, a mother without sufficient Kenyan shillings can fund her child's education with a credit based on what she offers in community currency. A school receiving the credit can use it to help pay for school fees and increase teachers’ salaries. The teachers can use the vouchers to pay for cleaning services from the mother or any goods and services in the network.
    “Community Currencies are central to the global commons movement. With long-term social and financial impacts for low income communities. They are distinct from the wider field of complementary currencies because they have the collateral of cooperative assets of the communities that use them.” (Grassroots Economics)

Diagram of the Sarafu-Credit model. source

Origin Story

Sarafu-Credit was developed by a Kenyan foundation called Grassroots Economics and has been implemented since 2010. By 2017, five local currencies were participating.

See Also