In the Mpigi region of southwestern Uganda, village savings and lending groups conduct business much as they do elsewhere.
They meet regularly, members deposit their contributions to their savings accounts and take out small loans. At the end of the saving cycle, they also receive a payout from the collective interest and fees collected.
The only thing that’s missing? The metal cash box where the group’s funds are stored, secured by three separate locks with keys held by three different trusted community members. The multiple locks and key holders ensure transparency and security.
Advantages of the Mobile Wallet
Members of the savings and lending groups who favor the new technology cite two advantages with using the mobile wallet. One is simply convenience. In some of the more rural areas, the local bank is a long and expensive ride away. A mobile connection eliminates the time and expense of physically taking cash to the bank.
“It has provided security to the group,” said Harriet Nakku, 48, of the Nalubugo Credit and Savings Group. “Members can easily access their money with the mobile wallet. Even if someone is far away, you can access it just by entering a PIN.”
But the advantage consistently cited is the increased safety and security offered by mobile banking. A treasurer who keeps a safe box containing hundreds or even thousands of dollars of cash becomes a target for thieves, threatening not just the group’s funds but also the personal safety of the treasurer’s family.
Rose Sengaba, 58, secretary of the Nezikokolima savings group (the name means "even those that crow were eggs at one point"), noted that the box containing the funds of a nearby savings group, totaling more than one million Ugandan shillings ($300), was recently stolen, leaving that group empty handed.
Her fellow savings group member, Immaculate Nakuya, 50, said such security concerns made her and her neighbors immediately receptive to the idea of the mobile wallet. “When they came and talked to us about it, we thought it was a good idea,” said Nakuya, a coffee, bean and maize farmer who is using her savings to finish building her home. “Because it’s not safe to keep money in the home. But if you put it in a bank or on a phone, it’s safe.”
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