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All set for National Microfinance and Savings Group Conference

A training session for Saccos

A training session for Saccos

Uganda has experienced significant evolution in its microfinance sector, tracing back to the establishment of financial cooperatives/Saccos in the 1960s, followed by the emergence of the microfinance movement in the 1990s, and now transitioning into a phase of commercialization and regulation within the industry.

Despite these advancements, the sector continues to require targeted interventions from various stakeholders to address existing fragmentation issues. This includes addressing the expanding segment of savings groups aimed at reaching those still marginalized from formal financial services and achieving banking penetration in the most remote areas.

In response to this dynamic landscape, the Finance ministry, in partnership with Stanbic Bank, is organizing the second National Microfinance and Savings Group Conference through the ministry’s Financial Inclusion Support Unit (FISU).

The conference is slated to take place on July 17 and July 18 at Hotel Africana under the theme, ‘Leveraging Collaborations and Partnerships to Foster Saving Culture, Social and Economic Transformation’ and will facilitate discussions and actions that will further enhance the effectiveness and inclusivity of Uganda’s microfinance sector.

The conference will bring together government officials and policymakers, banks and microfinance institutions, international organizations and development agencies, development partners and non-government organizations, community leaders and representatives of Saccos and savings groups to share recent developments in micro finance industry and explore new frontiers towards sustainable financial inclusion.

In addition, the conference will identify new ways for households and microfinance institutions to leverage to digital financial inclusion, gender and social protection in finance, consumer protection and financial literacy, partnerships and collaborations, the role of the microfinance in climate finance and data to drive access to microfinance services.

Francis Karuhanga, chief executive, Stanbic Uganda Holdings, says this conference will be a platform to showcase success stories from partnerships between the public and private sector in driving financial inclusion.

“At the end of the day, we expect to see an even stronger commitment to public-private partnerships in driving financial inclusion. Government agencies such as Operation Wealth Creation, Ministry of Finance, and local government commercial officers in the Ministry of Trade, have been instrumental in the early success of our SACCO financing and capacity building programme which we launched about three years ago,” he says.

Lance Kashugyera, the FISU manager, says the conference is going to leverage the commitments and recommendations of the first conference and bring together leaders, pro poor driven partners and government in a purpose-based partnership approach to explore how various stakeholders can harmonize development goals.

“These coordinated efforts and other collaborations will advance the financial inclusion agenda, create a shared vision and collective actions towards achieving social and economic transformation through microfinance and savings,” he says.

Meanwhile, Yusuf Salim Giduno, the stakeholder and partnerships coordinator at FISU, adds that Uganda has made considerable investments through various programs and interventions to support household communities to tackle poverty.

“Collaboration is vital to thriving inclusive financial strategies and partnerships between governments, private sector players, development partners and academia are an avenue to advance financial inclusion in Uganda,” he says.

This year’s conference is designed to address three objectives; evaluate the ongoing advancements and obstacles within the microfinance and savings groups sector, focusing on aspects such as consumer protection, financial literacy, climate finance, gender equality and social protection.

Secondly, explore the possibilities for collaboration and partnerships to propel and maintain the sustainability of financial inclusion initiatives, emphasizing the importance of collective efforts in addressing barriers and expanding access to financial services.

And to highlight opportunities for engagement in data management, knowledge sharing, and learning to enhance financial inclusion strategies, identifying avenues for leveraging information and expertise to drive informed decision-making and improve outcomes in this field particularly across institutions and sub-sectors.

“Our ultimate aim, according to the National Development Plan III is socio-economic transformation. When people are able to access formal financial services and create avenues through which they can access services using the available financial services, you are contributing to the financial inclusion because many people who are not part of the banking system are also able to come on board,” Giduno said.

Baker Kanyangoga, the task manager of the Financial Inclusion Support Unit revealed that after the conference, the Microfinance Forum that functioned as a platform for collaboration and engagement among stakeholders during the initial phases of Uganda’s microfinance sector is going to be revived so as to achieve a more coordinated approach to the goals of financial inclusion.

The second day of the conference is going to focus on exhibitions. It is intended to showcase the enterprises of people who have benefited from various government programs like Emyooga, Youth Livelihood Programme and Parish Development Model.

Institutions that support these Saccos and savings groups like Care International, ABI Trust, Association of Microfinance Institutions in Uganda as well as commercial banks will also showcase their services. The speaker of parliament Anita Among is expected to preside over the opening of the conference while President Museveni is expected to close it.

Stanbic take

According to Melisa Nyakwera, the Acting Head of Business and Commercial Banking at Stanbic Bank Uganda, highlights that they are happy with the achievements from the Stanbic Sacco and Capacity Building programme, which has significantly improved access of affordable credit by farmers, through their groups.

“In the past, this was difficult. Within two years of launching the programme, we have partnered with over 6,000 Sacco groups with savings worth over Shs 200 billion. As of December 2023, Stanbic Bank has extended loans worth Shs 84 billion in Saccos at 10%, the lowest in the market. This credit has directly or indirectly supported more than two million Ugandans.”

“In the past, the alignment between the public and private sector priorities has been weak leading to missed opportunities. But we have started seeing improvement within the design of the Parish Development Model where the role of the private sector in driving success of some of the PDM pillars has been well captured. Through platforms such as this upcoming conference, we shall go a long way in fostering further alignment of the public and private sector priorities,” adds Nyakwera.

Sam Mwogeza, the Executive Director, Stanbic Bank Uganda, says that beyond the conference, their long-term purpose is to drive Uganda’s growth.

“At a microeconomic level, this means supporting the government’s long-term goal of getting every Ugandan into the money economy; this is a shared objective for us. We are invested in the growth journey of Ugandan local enterprises and the individuals who run them. We have designed products and services to achieve these objectives.

For instance, the Stanbic Business Incubator supports over 1,000 enterprises annually, to enhance their competitiveness for emerging opportunities in sectors such as oil and gas, agribusiness, and tourism. Through FlexiPay, we have availed an innovative way for young Ugandans to access financial services through the FlexiPay wallet without necessarily having a bank account.

Through Stanbic4Her, we are enabling thousands of women entrepreneurs to access affordable credit at 15.5% to grow their businesses and financially transform their households. Partnership is at the heart of all these initiatives and our long-term goal is enter more partnerships to drive Uganda’s growth and transform Ugandans financially,” he says.

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