Case Study

Understanding Savings Behaviors and Perceptions in Low- and Middle-Income Kenyans


To design effective behavior change interventions related to helping low- and middle-income Kenyans save for health, it’s important to thoroughly understand the audience’s perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors relating to saving currently. Developing this understanding will lead to sharper hypotheses and more germane interventions.


To serve this need, an exploratory survey was conducted among the target audience in Kenya.  The short mobile-survey was developed to learn about how the group saves currently, and what sentiments are held about a health savings platform called M-TIBA.  Respondents reported what, if anything, they’ve saved for in the past couple of months, and what they’d like to save more for if they could. Then, to understand perceptions related to the savings platform, respondents reported which of two contrasting adjectives (e.g., easy vs. difficult, straightforward vs. complicated) better describe how they think of the platform.  Respondents reported their level of financial struggle, and whether they were already registered with the savings platform so that we could test for differences between these groups.



Of the 166 respondents, 69% reported having saved money in the past couple of months.  However, there was a significant difference between those who reported high financial struggle (59%), and those who did not report high struggle (78%).  Meanwhile, when given an opportunity to write-in what they wish they could save more towards, tangible and investment-oriented items, such as school fees and business investment, emerged as most top-of-mind.  Less salient concepts, like saving for emergencies and saving for health, were reported less frequently.

After reading a description of the M-TIBA health savings product, a majority of the respondents reported positive impressions of the platform.  77% consider it Straightforward instead of Complicated , 82% said is sounds Simple instead of Confusing, and 85% consider it Trustworthy instead of Suspicious, to name a few.  However, there is one dimension where sentiment was less positive: perceived commonality.  Whereas 56% of respondents who had already signed up for the platform reported it to be Common instead of Uncommon, only 34% of those who have not yet signed up reported it to be Common.  

Why it matters

This evidence suggests that many in the target audience have the capacity to save.  What’s further, they are open to saving for investment-oriented concepts, and not just for pure consumption.  However, their attitude towards saving for less tangible concepts, like saving for health or for health insurance, appears to be weaker, relative these more salient alternatives.  One idea to emerge out of this finding is that it could be productive to bundle saving for tangible items like school with saving for intangible items like health. Finding a way to piggyback onto the concepts that are already top of mind could make saving for health more enticing.

Further, it’s useful to know that the target audience tends to see the savings platform as intuitive and trustworthy.  However, developing deeper understanding about the origin and impact of the perception related to commonality seems like a worthwhile future direction.  Does a change in this perception lead to different levels of saving on the platform? How about vice versa, does saving lead to a change in the perception?  What other factors lead to a shift in this perception? A mix of experimental and further exploratory research will help better understand these important questions and lead to better intervention design.