Life on the other side of an M-pesa shop

You meet flirty customers and late rent payers while learning accounts

In Summary

• Helping out at the cash service was how I killed time while waiting to join university

Customers queue outside an M-Pesa shop in Nairobi
Customers queue outside an M-Pesa shop in Nairobi
Image: FILE

Right now, I may call myself an unemployed person, but at least so far in my life, I’ve worked two jobs. Let me tell you about the first one, where I worked as an M-pesa agent.

I used to watch and laugh at skits about female M-pesa agents until I finally understood them. Rather, until I became one.

Well, I had just finished high school and it was that period where you are awaiting university admission. One of my aunts was like, instead of just sitting in the house, I come help her out at one of her many M-pesa shops. Her enterprise is what we call an M-pesa super-agent.

I was required to get to work at 8 and I worked alongside Ann, who taught me all I needed to know. Working at a super-agent meant that customers would even call you from as early as 6 because they needed what we called float — money for their various transactions at their smaller M-pesa businesses. Here, they deposit the money they would need for the ‘float', and we send it to them.

Other customers of all calibres also used to come along for the simple deposit and withdrawal by agent. From those with “nieke 50” to those with “Unaeza niekea hii yote”, and it’s roughly Sh300,000.

Working here is also the first time I held more than Sh2 million. Wish I could say it was mine, but a day is coming. It was just a small practice for the future.

There were notes of all states, those that tell their story. The clean notes, that give that ruffling sound just to show you it hasn’t been through any struggle. Then the dirty notes that look tired, worn out, telling you what it has been through from the hands of “makangas” to the “mama-mboga” and finally here, at yours. Wondering how long it will take before it ends.

The beauty and intricacy of arranging different values with their notes. Reminding me of my Jumbo Junior days, where I would empty my piggy bank and arrange the notes in hundreds and the coins in the 40s, 20s, 10s, 5s and 1 bobs.

Customers can be very cunning. They would say they had given out a certain amount only to find out that the cash given was lower. Instances of fake notes were also there and luckily, we knew how to identify one.

I met rude customers but also kind ones, the ones who even offer to buy Ann and me lunch with the line, “Warembo naona mmechoka. Ni njaa ama?” And the ones who thought they were funny by asking me, “Uko class? Kwani high school zimefungwa?” I also met the late rent payers, the ones who already found that the landlord had placed a padlock at their door.

It was generally a great experience of getting to learn how to even balance various books of accounts, knowledge that later came in handy through my course at university. Now you know that the next time you meet a sulky M-pesa attendant, “Sio kupenda kwake.”

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