Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”), a leading telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, today announced that it is working with the Grameen Foundation to initiate a project to provide mobile financial services to Savings Groups in Uganda.
The innovative project, dubbed ‘Airtel Chama’ (“chama” means “savings group” in Swahili) aims at reducing Savings groups’ reliance on cash and seeks to introduce the benefits of mobile technology to approximately 900,000 people in Uganda.
Uganda currently has over 45,000 village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) with over 900,000 members. The country is the largest market for savings groups globally.
Savings Groups (SGs) are self-managed community-based groups that provide members access to basic financial services. SGs are very popular amongst African women, especially those who are not involved in the formal financial sector. Currently, most saving groups are cash-based, thus the potential for fraud and theft is very high. The Airtel Chama service will address this issue by making the savings groups’ processes more secure, efficient and transparent.
In addition, the Airtel Chama service will also provide credit to those who don’t have access to it through traditional channels. Given that at least 70% of savings groups’ members are women, the innovative service will be a catalyst for women empowerment in Uganda. Thanks to the Chama platform, women will have better access to credit facilities and their loan applications will be processed faster in financial institutions. The Airtel Chama service answers the government call of empowering women and enabling them to contribute towards development.
“In some cases, women cannot save their earnings because they are obliged to give any money they have to their husbands. With Airtel Chama, women’s savings are private and digitized; these women will be more empowered because their husbands will have a harder time taking their money away”, explains Chidi Okpala, the Director of Airtel Money Africa.
He continues: “At Airtel, we recognize innovative telecommunications solutions have the power to transform communities. The Chama initiative will promote more economic transactions in the rural areas. It will lead to rural development and it will reduce poverty. We are excited and thankful to the partners involved in birthing this initiative: GSMA and the Grameen Foundation”.
GSMA mWomen has lauded Airtel Uganda’s efforts and has awarded the Innovation Fund grant to the telecommunications company. Airtel will use the money towards decreasing the gender gap in mobile access and increasing women’s use of mobile in Uganda. The Grameen Foundation will monitor the social impact of the Airtel Chama service on Ugandan women.
Airtel plans to further develop the Chama initiative and is eager to implement it across all its markets on the continent.