From November 6-10, 2017, UNCDF completed its first activity in the pilot project to strengthen savings groups and promote digital financial literacy for refugees in Tanzania. The five-day workshop took place in Kasulu, Kigoma Region, and included 26 participants from 13 stakeholder organizations. CARE Tanzania was the lead organizer, with Silvester Kobare, a Training Consultant from Micro Enterprise and Financial Inclusion (MEFI) Associates, serving as lead designer and trainer.
The workshop was the first activity undertaken as part of a comprehensive approach by UNCDF to improve access to financial services in humanitarian settings, both in and surrounding Tanzania’s refugee camps. Tanzania, as a context for refugees, presents specific possibilities and challenges, given the changing policy towards refugees and the goal to provide greater access to markets and interaction with the host community outlined in UNHCR’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), of which Tanzania is a signatory.
Objectives of the workshop were to bring together key stakeholders promoting savings groups in the Nyarugusu camp to discuss the particular challenges faced by such promoters in humanitarian settings, share potential solutions to these challenges, as well as to present new tools for managing groups. Kobare demonstrated both the Financial Sector Deepening Kenya (FSDK) tool called “e-recording”, as well as the upcoming “Chomoka” tool for digitizing savings groups, developed by CARE’s Access Africa programme with financial support from MicroLead. Through a field-visit to Nyarugusu Camp, participants also practiced using a tool developed by CARE to assess the health of savings groups.
A number of key issues arose from group discussions, including challenges in repaying loans, inconsistencies in group record keeping, the risk of keeping too much cash in boxes, and lack of regular work which would allow refugees to earn, save, and invest money. The need for improved training of group members, more frequent communication and oversight of group operations, and the addition of digital tools (such as e-recording or Chomoka) were highlighted.
Even with the challenges faced by savings group promoters in the camps, Kobare noted that “the refugee setting has a robust business environment made up of refugees and host communities. This provides opportunity for promotion of financial services. Savings groups are starting point in building successful financial lives of refugees. This can be built further through building capacities in financial education and engagement with relevant authorities to change policies that hinder provision of financial services.''
Participants appreciated the opportunity for a targeted training such as this workshop, in which they could learn about each others’ programmes and share experiences and advice. According to one participant, knowledge of other programmes had been weak until this point, and “the workshop was most useful because I now understand all of the financial services offered in the camps.” They expressed the need for further workshops, an issue that UNCDF has considered and plans to implement in 2018.
MicroLead is a UNCDF-managed global initiative challenging regulated FSPs to develop and roll-out deposit services which respond to the rural vacuum of services. With the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard Foundation and the LIFT Fund in Myanmar, MicroLead works with a variety of FSPs and technical service providers to reach rural markets, particularly women, with demand-driven, responsibly priced products offered via alternative delivery channels such as rural agents, mobile phones, roving agents, point of sales devices and group linkages. This is combined with financial education, so customers not only have access but can effectively use quality services.
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