Owning a house in this city is one of those things that can set one and their finances onto quite a positive tangent by either eliminating the need to pay rent if one decides to live in it, or by injecting additional income if one decides to rent it out. Last week Benson Kilonzi was one elated man after becoming the fourth person to win an apartment worth 7.8 Million bob in Kahawa West Nairobi.

When Safaricom set out on a journey to enable people and communities through Twaweza, this is the kind of thing that was on the cards. Like many people who live in rural areas, small scale farming is second nature and this is what Benson does. But to get by and to be able to feed and educate his family, he supplements his income by doubling as a jua kali artisan in the remote village of Ithumula in Kitui county.

I doubt the 46 father of two had dream or even the ability to one day come and put up a house in the city but here he is – the proud owner of a Kshs7.8 Million apartment in the city. In his own words, “this is certainly a life-changing win for my entire family and me as the casual jobs I do cannot sufficiently feed my family nor build a descent house.”

Benson was busy going about his business digging a pit latrine for a neighbor in the village when he received the call to announce the win. Like many people, he did not believe it and he took some time to have the news sink in, as well as confirming that he had indeed been called with the official Safaricom number.

And he’s not the only one who has won an apartment so far in the 10 week promotion that kicked off on June 18.

The first winner was one James Njagi Waweru, a metal artisan in Gikomba market. James went to receive the key to his apartment on July 6 accompanied by his wife and little girl, as well as fellow traders from Gikomba. James may very well decide to live in his brand new apartment – Gikomba is not too far.

The second apartment went to Eric Lindenberg, a 49 year old South African resident in Kenya who came to the country about 6 years ago and promptly embraced the convenience of Mpesa. Eric is an interior design consultant who works on a global scale and who loves the fast growth at which our country is growing. He prefers Mpesa for most of his transactions like shopping, making payments, and paying for fuel among other uses.

Apartment number 3 went to mum of three Jennifer Kathure. Jennifer comes from Meru but lives in Narok town where she makes her money from Agribusiness.  She sources Khat from her home county Meru and resells in Narok. Jennifer, like many other business people, is a clear example of just how convenient Mpesa can get, as she relies on the service to receive payments from her customers and pays her suppliers back home with the same. And not only that, when business is low she relies on Mpesa offshoot Mshwari to borrow money to go on her business and to support neighbors who may come to her for financial assistance.

She quite personifies the story of empowerment behind Mpesa, which has been shown to lift thousands of families from extreme poverty and enabled over 185,000 women to transition from farming to other businesses.

Mpesa was launched 11 years ago and has since garnered 28.6 Million customers, 156,000 agents and more than a hundred thousand Lipa Na Mpesa merchants. When I think of the agents especially, I can imagine the ripple effects to immediate families and communities through job creation, jobs that were unheard of a short 11 years ago.

The promotion is still ongoing and there are still 3 more apartments to be won.

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