New digital plaform deepening financial inclusion in Uganda

Airsave Uganda

By George Aine

A Ugandan digital startup has created a mobile platform that will enable low-income earners to access banks for savings and loan services using their mobile phones.

Named Airsave, the digital SACCO provides a secure digital saving platform to all mobile phone users in communities across Uganda and also provides financial literacy programs in communities and schools in partnership with a goal of eradicating poverty in Africa through enhancing saving through financial inclusion.

Henry Damulira, the Airsave chief executive officer, says the new application is suitable for Saccos and church-based organizations, as well as village groups and individuals interested in saving part of their income.

“The innovation does not need a smartphone to operate, bearing in mind that the most financially excluded people live in rural settings where smartphones are rare,” says Damulira.

He adds that the product will ride on the mobile money platform, which currently has more than 10 million users transacting on a daily basis.

The service allows mobile phone users using Airtel money or MTN mobile money to register digitally to a SACCO using a mobile phone and a member begins to save and earn commissions using the phone.

“Users will be required to dial a number, which will automatically link them to the bank, where an account will be opened for them in real time. This will enable them to save any amount of money, as well as access loans to grow or start their own businesses,” Damulira says.

He notes that customers will also be able to withdraw from the account at their pleasure at the various mobile money points of sale in the country when the money is required.

How to register

Simply dial *270*30# on both Airtel and MTN network and follow the procedures. You must have Shs300 worth of airtime if you are on Airtel network to use the above code. You must have Shs210 worth of airtime if you are on MTN network to use the above code.

“The interesting thing with this platform is that it enables a customer to even open fixed deposit accounts in the bank, without ever stepping there,” he said.

According to statistics from the Bank of Uganda, there are only 5 million Ugandans with formal bank accounts, while millions, especially in the hard to reach areas, use informal methods to save money.

“The banking sector has been looking at ways of reducing the unbanked population in Uganda through financial inclusion drives, and certainly, it seems, this will bring on board as many people as possible,” said Damulira. This was on the sidelines of the launch at the Eco bank head offices.

He said Uganda’s economy has been resilient in the past, growing at least 5% every year, yet the growth has not been realised by the ordinary people because of savings and financing gaps in the economy.

“Although the banking industry has experienced significant transformation over the past three years, statistics indicate that 62% of Ugandans still have no access to financial services. This is what products like this will change,” he said.

Available statistics from the World Bank indicate that there are at least two billion people across the world that are still financially excluded, with Uganda contributing at least two million, one hundred and seventy-six thousand people.

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