Monday, April 18, 2016

M-Shwari in Kenya: Use and Impact Among the Jua Kali Informal Sector (Video)

In this project, researchers, Ndunge Kiiti, Jane Mutinda and Monique Hennink with cinematographer Steve McCord investigated how M-Shwari, a Safaricom savings and loan product, was being used by the relatively understudied Jua Kali informal sector in Kenya. Jua Kali, Swahili for ‘hot sun’ refers to small-to-medium-sized self-employed workers in the informal sector including masons, plumbers and other artisans. Curiously, shwari in Swahili means cool or calm. The project involved the production of a short video that provides an insightful and intricate snapshot into the advantages and challenges of using M-Shwari for this growing sector of the Kenyan economy. The video shows that while access to credit and savings is certainly valuable for this sector, there have been several challenges in interfacing with and understanding how to use the platform, partly because the product has not been advertised in this sector, particularly in rural areas.  

Watch the video to learn more and read reflections from the filmmaker Steve McCord below!

The Art of Disseminating Data by Steve McCord, McCord Media Group

Why Video?

One reason I was brought onto this project was to tangibly communicate research to practitioners while connecting results to individuals outside academia. Speaking as someone outside of this sphere, video makes complex social and technological ideas approachable. It is a way to reconnect the humanity of research that often becomes numbers and stats to actual human beings. Video is not a disenfranchised statistic; it is people expressing an experience. 

Video is not meant to comprehensively detail each element of research but to provide a tool to contextually discuss problems and solutions.  To create this context, I filmed on-location in Kenya for three weeks. Besides technical challenges like recording interviews in the middle of a noisy metallurgy sector of the Jua Kali, we also fought against the mentality that we will take a potential interviewee’s image and sell it. We had to consistently work to communicate the purpose and platform for this video and establish respectful and research-conscious video practices. For me, this was an excellent reminder that using a camera gives me tremendous power not to be confused with a right to film.

On a personal note, my favorite part of producing these videos is seeing a (Western) audience confronted with a reality that disagrees with their paradigm of the ‘developing world.’ Watching this video provokes an auditory, visual, and intellectual experience that cannot be ignored. Presenting a complex reality instead of a sensational snapshot is rare in media today making video like this is all the more necessary.

To hear more, tune in live this week to the IMTFI 2016 conference April 20-21 where the seventh-year cohort of funded fellows will be presenting preliminary findings from their research and Ndunge Kiiti will be the keynote speaker!

*Watch the Video
*Read the initial blogpost about the research process

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