The word kawu must be familiar to whoever attended boarding schools in Uganda.
Kawu is that period in a boarding school when a student’s pocket money and grab – read packed eats and drinks – are over and the only thing left to feed on are the meals served by the school kitchen. These meals are usually porridge, posho, and beans.
The word kawu is an abbreviation for kawunga (posho) and kawukuumi (beans weevils) served in most schools. After going through long spells of kawu, a group of young Ugandans don’t wish to see others in boarding schools suffer the same fate. As such, they came up with a digital solution for managing students’ pocket money and expenditure.
The Kawu platform allows students to safely keep their money and spend it without wastage. It enables parents and guardians to periodically send money to students, manage student expenditure and also teach them financial discipline.
“In the past, the arrangement has been that parents and guardians leave money with teachers, matrons, wardens and canteen attendants. The student would then go and ask for the money whenever they need to spend. Sometimes, those left with the cash get emergencies and end up spending this money with the hope of refunding it. This arrangement is tiresome, risky, time-consuming and doesn’t benefit those that keep the money,” Steven Kakooza, a director at Kawu Uganda explained the rationale behind the Kawu platform.
He added: “But with Kawu, a student has a smart card which s/he uses to make payments at the school canteen and also withdraw money in case a need for cash arises. The teachers, matrons, wardens, and canteen attendants are the agents that enable the transactions. They get a commission for this. All they need is a smartphone to enable the transactions. A student only needs to have the Kawu smart card. For the parents, they just need to log on to the app, send money to the student’s smart card, and set periodic expenditure limits. Kawu benefits all stakeholders.”
Since rolling out the platform at the start of the year, Kawu is already active in 20 schools and serving over 1,000 students.
“We have received a lot of positive reception everywhere we have gone. We are actually overwhelmed by the requests from different schools that want to enroll onto Kawu. Over 90 per cent of the schools we visit wish to have their students on Kawu. The team is now focusing on ensuring that we are able to accommodate the huge numbers that we are bringing on board. We are very optimistic that thanks to Kawu platform, Uganda’s students are going to become cashless very soon.”
According to Kakooza, Uganda’s financial inclusion story should include everyone regardless of age and location.
“People always admire the flowers but ignore the roots yet without roots, the flowers couldn’t grow. For our case, we are enhancing financial inclusion and teaching financial literacy right from schools so that by the time these students leave school, they are equipped with sufficient knowledge to do better financially,” Kakooza said.
Kawu Uganda Limited is the second participant in the 2022 40 Days 40 Fintechs initiative.
Now in its third edition, #40Days40FinTechs has quickly grown into one of the world’s premier showcase events for the innovations that are enabling ever more people to join the digital economy space.
That is surely going to remain the case, in large part due to the inspiration and collaboration that our partners; Level One Project, Mojaloop, ModusBox, and Crosslake Technologies generate, but mostly because of the continuing, generous support of the Gates Foundation.
Digital Innovators and FinTechs around East Africa should be more eager to embrace 40 Days 40 FinTechs as Season three will cover physical destinations in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda.
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 #40Days40FinTechs 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.
The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative 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.
According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, this year’s edition will cement the achievements of the previous editions – where over 60 finfechs have been transformed – but also build on them to leverage digital financial inclusion in East Africa and beyond.
“As HiPipo, our extensive effort and advocacy is partly for the intention of championing digital innovation and interoperable instant and inclusive payment systems (IIPS) in Africa to a point where our innovators enjoy and achieve sound profit margins to help them keep designing and deploying affordable and inclusive financial services for the poor,” Kawooya said.