Kenya is a frontier market for ‘financial technology’, or FinTech. This industry – which merges mobile telephony and digital data with commercial lending – has grown spec-tacularly, with millions of Kenyans borrowing for household, emergency, and commercial expenses. This industry’s frenzied growth has been fuelled by not merely the pursuit of profit, but also a decidedly more developmental aspiration, namely ‘financial inclusion’. This article analyzes the curious merger of public good and private gain, the technological innovations, and sorts of knowledge work that undergird this field. It particularly examines the novel man-ner in which digital lenders capitalise on intimacy, converting practices of kinship and entrust-ment into frontiers of extraction. Personal and social data are translated into credit scores, extended family networks are mediated by financial services, and interpersonal relations sub-sidise risky lending decisions. In contrast to a view of capitalism as abstracting and alienating, this analysis foregrounds the sorts of personal relations, sentiments and obligations that are incorporated. Through fieldwork with borrowers, industry members and regulators, we show that digital lending relies on a conversion between different registers of wealth – in people, in things and in knowledge – and we track the ethical negotiations and anxious attachments that constitute this curious utopia.
|Translated title of the contribution||Algorithmic intimacy the data economy of predatory inclusion in Kenya|
|Number of pages||20|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jun 2022|
- financial inclusion