Marie Mintalucci has spent a number of years supporting female-led groups across Sub-Saharan Africa to create self-sustaining ventures. However, during this time, she has mainly made two observations.
One, women often borrow huge sums of money for unprofitable purposes like sending children to school or putting a new roof on the house. However, they often motivate for this credit as money for improving their businesses to increase the likelihood of obtaining the loan.
Two, the group micro loans that these women qualify for are often risky and expensive. Moreover, those loans are typically not in line with individual needs.
“With this in mind and some exciting behavioral science, I developed the idea of WomenSave to empower these women to meet their own self-defined financial goals on their terms and conditions with personalized savings plans,”Marie Mintalucci, the WomenSave Executive Director noted.
WomenSave is a non-profit organization started in 2020 that empowers unbanked women in rural East Africa to meet their financial goals with personal savings plans and mobile money.
All participants are taken through one-on-one financial advisory services, financial literacy training, customized goal-based saving plans, and critical instructions on how to open and use a mobile money account.
Mintalucci stresses that her research proved that web-based saving has the power to give women a real voice and a risk-free tool to join the digital economy. The project, which was first piloted in Western Uganda, targets women who live below USD 2 a day.
“We started in 2020 and today we have reached approximately 1,300 clients in Western Uganda who collectively have deposited over USD 84,000,” she says.
But her biggest satisfaction comes from the 1,165 financial goals achieved including buying livestock, paying school fees, purchasing home goods, making home improvements, investing in businesses and covering healthcare expenses. In addition, clients have more than doubled their individual reserve funds.
“WomenSave itself is not a financial service provider. We are the bridge between existing mobile money services and this market segment (rural women),” she explains.
She however acknowledges that her initiative is just a drop in the ocean because globally, the state of female financial inclusion is still very bad.
“There are nearly one billion women unbanked globally and in Uganda alone, approximately five million,” she says, noting that there is need to address both demand and supply constraints.
“On the demand side, we need to build trust and onboard women on the digital financial system in a welcoming manner. On the supply side, we need to show banks that this segment can be profitable. WomenSave aims to tackle both of these challenges, to fundamentally change the way banks welcome women and moreover the way those women use financial services to make their goals a reality,” she says.
40 Days 40 FinTechs
WomenSave is the 18th participant in this year’s edition of #40Days40FinTechs.
Mintalucci applauded HiPipo for this initiative that is critical in raising the importance of what is being done in the financial inclusion space to inspire conversations, improve donations, investments and partnerships.
According to HiPipo CEO, Innocent Kawooya, WomenSave is a step in the right direction for women financial inclusion especially in rural Africa.
“The most beautiful thing is that WomenSave is run on a unique model. Many women crave things but lack proper means of making targeted savings. This model is the solution to that need,” he said.
Kawooya added that this year’s edition of 40 Days 40 FinTechs is cementing achievements of the previous editions – where over 60 FinTechs have been transformed – but also building on them to leverage digital financial inclusion in East Africa and beyond.
“Thanks to initiatives like 40 Days 40 FinTechs and Level One Project among others; DFSPs, and FinTech stakeholders across Africa will soon gain access to fully functional IIPS regulatory sandboxes to prototype, build and test innovative digital products while evaluating Mojaloop technology with the aim of solving data/infrastructure localization government regulations and directives,” Kawooya said.
The #40Days40FinTechs platform is run under HiPipo’s Include Everyone program that also encompasses other initiatives such as FinTech Landscape Exhibition, Women in FinTech Hackathon, Summit & Incubator and the Digital and Financial Inclusion Summit and Digital Impact Awards Africa.
The platform aptly provides a setting for the various players and stakeholders involved in digital and financial technology to exhibit their products & Services and also share their ideas on how more of us, especially those unserved and underserved by the present financial systems, can be brought into the fold.
It also offers participants useful tools and an introduction to the industry’s emerging technologies, such as Mojaloop Open Source Software, and guidance from Level One Project foundational material. The skills gained from this initiative cover Level One Project Principles, Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems (IIPS), Inclusive Finance and FinTech in general.