For a year now, more than 180 local businesses in what is called the "Bangladesh" slum near the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa have used their own colorful currency alongside the Kenya shilling.
It is called "Bangla-Pesa." It is slightly larger than a dollar, comes in 5s, 10s, and 20s, and is helping to stimulate trade in one of Kenya’s most neglected places by its use in businesses, churches, and schools.
Bangla-Pesa works by allowing barter between small business owners. Since Bangla-Pesa is accepted only in "Bangladesh," the cash stays in the community, allowing people to save their Kenyan shillings for bigger purchases.
For example, a motorcycle taxi driver may have the capacity for 20 trips a day but only takes five. At the same time, a fish vendor throws out 20 percent of her stock. With Bangla-Pesa, the fish vendor can buy a ride to the market instead of walking; the taxi driver can buy the excess fish, or something else.
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