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New App Enables Digitization of Tontines

by Daniel Sabiiti
12:31 pm

Artistic interpretation of the SAVE App

A Rwandan Fintech company has demonstrated a a savings application that might be a game-changer in digitizing community saving groups while also advancing financial inclusion.

The Application called “SAVE App” developed by Exuus Ltd, a local financial services company builds on the existing culture of traditional savings groups.

Building on the existing mobile money infrastructure provided by MTN Rwanda and Airtel-Tigo Rwanda, and need for low cost non-banking services, the App developers say that a survey showed a need to digitize informal saving services in which common residents (mostly women) save Rwf200- 500 per day.

Their research conducted in 2018 showed that Rwf5.7billion is saved per month from savings groups and an average of Rwf4, 900 per month per individual- who didn’t use formal banking services because of high costs and fees involved but also lack of transparency.

This rich ground compelled development of a digital wallet application for collective saving schemes to enhance the savings, access to credit from persons who care, and this started with members of supervised savings groups run by Non-governmental organizations in Rusizi district, Western Province.

“The story of Rusizi is very special to us because when we felt that we had failed to implement the idea, the savings groups and NGos in Rusizi saw the importance of the application,” said Steve Shema the CEO of Exuus during the demo event held this June 9.

Within two years, Exuus data shows that the application (available on USSD and App Store) has managed to reach 100,000 members, 6000 groups and over 1000 agents on top of Rwf343million loans in 2020.

“We saw more than 200 percent growth during the pandemic because previously it was very tough to explain the importance of saving using the application,” Shema said.

Difference with Formal Banking

With the Save application, members can get relatively free services compared to formal banking- these include cost free saving, getting a loan is free and for one to get a loan, it is approved on the application by the group committee.

The only fee that applies is when they go to cash out and members can get up to 6% of interest on savings from the Access Bank Rwanda- which currently works with the product.

For residents who have used the application to save and get loans, they say it is life saving in moments of cash needs, to pay bills and access a loan.

“We had issues of some committee members misusing savings and at times losing the money on the way to the bank, but today we don’t touch money and barely move a step-because of mobile technology,” Solange Uwera, a village leader in Rusizi said.

Ingride Cyuzuzo, the Manager, Financial Sector Development & Innovation at the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) said the SaveApp story is one of understanding and caring for Rwandans financial needs.

“It is also one of resilience to bring solutions at all cost. We need more Rwandans who can create such resilient innovations and solutions, of which we are ready to support,” he said.

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