Surprising growth of savings and loans groups in Uganda | 

Map of CRS and CARE programs.

A savings-and-loan initiative in Uganda sought to create groups where people could increase their personal finances. The hope was that agents would then help form new groups to reach more people. It succeeded, but not in a way that was expected.

A survey of savings-and-loan groups across Uganda in 2013 found that many of the new groups were self-formed.

A group of researchers went back to the villages that once participated in savings-and-loan programs. The Datu Research team found that villagers learned from the other groups and went on to start their own. The new groups are performing just as well as the ones assisted by CARE and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

“At first people were overlooking our group. They would keep on moving. But at the time of sharing out, these people would see members of our group improving their standard of living. Many people were encouraged by our growth and wanted to join,” explained a group member from Bundibugyo, to the researchers.

The findings, published in the report Post-Project Replication of Savings Groups in Uganda, give evidence to the argument that programs can succeed when control is in the hands of the people, rather than the aid organization. The majority of members of the self-created groups say they were motivated to pay off recurring costs, mainly their children’s education. Fewer cited the desire to meet future financial needs and gain access to savings and loans.

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Gates Foundation invests half a billion dollars to fill in savings gap for the poor | 

Flickr, caribbeanfreephoto

Over the last few decades, one of the most popular anti-poverty schemes around the world has been microcredit — getting small loans to the poor.

Microfinance, generally referring to a range of services aimed at the poor, is now a huge — sometimes controversial — industry.

But what’s been missing from microfinance is savings.

“The poor don’t have a safe or efficient means for saving,” Melinda Gates said today at a Seattle confab called the Global Savings Forum. Lack of savings keeps the poor at risk of any costly emergency, she says, or simple theft.

Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will be investing half a billion dollars over the next five years in “microsavings” — helping the poor find new ways to save what little money they do make.

One increasingly popular method involves using mobile phones as basically a hand-held ATM and banking transfer system. In Kenya, a program known as M-PESA (Swahili for money), allows the poor to use their cell phones to buy, transfer and collect small sums of money. Continue reading