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Is Kenya's scratch cards business on its deathbed?

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Man selling scratch cards. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Christine Wanjiku, a bartender in a Ruiru nightclub, cannot remember the last time she bought an airtime top-up voucher from a shop.

The same is the case for Victor Maingi who works as a technical instructor attached to the National Industrial Training Authority (Nita).

This is the story of many mobile phone users who have, over time, subconsciously ditched the traditional culture of purchasing physical cards to fulfil their talk time, messaging and data top-up needs.

During their heyday, the vouchers which are commonly known as scratch cards, were a permanent fixture in retail shops as well as in garbage containers and littered streets, a phenomenon that has since changed as users increasingly shift to digitally-enabled transactions.

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Small-scale vendors who spoke to Business Daily say they have seen a rapid drop in sales volumes of the cards in recent years, with some predicting a complete phase-out in two years’ time.

Take Beatrice Akinyi for example, a small-scale merchant who runs a micro-kiosk along Nairobi’s Kenyatta Avenue. Three years ago, she was selling at least five Sh1,000-worth cards, five worth Sh500 each and 10 at Sh100 each.

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