SG2018: Key learning from POWER Africa about the power of Savings Groups

by 10th Jul 2018
Nicedore Nkurunziza facilitating a discussion on working with adolescent girls at the SG2018 POWER Africa learning session Nicedore Nkurunziza facilitating a discussion on working with adolescent girls at the SG2018 POWER Africa learning session

The SEEP Network’s SG2018: The Power of Savings Groups conference has ended and now the real work begins for the sector. More than 400 policy makers, company and development sector representatives came together in Kigali in May to step up the scale and impact of Savings Groups globally. One of the key learning events at SG2018 was provided by CARE’s POWER Africa project (Promoting Opportunities for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Rural Africa), and here we talk to two members of the POWER Africa team about what they took away from SG2018, and how they believe Savings Groups can be taken forward to empower more women in the future.

Nicedore Nkurunziza, POWER Africa Programme Manager in Burundi

“The first element that needs to be taken into account is the need for innovative approaches that integrate gender in financial inclusion programmes, in order to make sure that these are durable and accessible for all.

“Financial inclusion alone does not guarantee financial autonomy, especially for women and girls. Different actors are involved in financial inclusion programmes: governments, NGOs and Village Agents all play a very important role in ensuring equal participation and in setting up the framework that guarantees the proper functioning of these programmes.

“Governments have become more and more relevant in the coordination of and in the legislation for a favourable environment for financial inclusion initiatives. As a consequence, their involvement should be ensured since the very beginning.

“As far as NGOs are concerned, they should start to rethink their role and act as innovators. The focus (and the funding) towards creation and support of VSLAs will diminish and donors will likely start focusing on other sectors in the near future.

“Village Agent networks and their capacity building should be strengthened. Some experiences have shown that the role of these networks goes way beyond financial inclusion and it becomes more and more visible in the advocacy for transformation of and influence over service provision.

“Following the discussions at SG2018, I am taking back to Burundi some relevant recommendations, in particular the importance of working more with male youth for future projects, and to strengthen advocacy for the integration of VSLA approaches into formal curricula for entrepreneurship trainings.

“The former because we cannot empower girls alone – interaction with male youth is crucial in building their leadership and in establishing the ground for a relationship of complementarity where responsibilities towards the families are shared; while the latter would be an effective poverty reduction strategy, as it would prepare the youth to achieve economic independence in school and out of school.”

Fati Abdou Karine, POWER Africa Programme Manager in Côte d’Ivoire

“My participation at SG2018 was a deep experience for me because I received detailed information concerning the progress of Saving Groups. I also found the training sessions extremely fruitful because they focused on current topics and I appreciated SG2018’s methodology and space for interactive exchanges and networking with all the stakeholders in financial inclusion: implementing agencies, beneficiaries, donors, governments, philanthropists and consultants from different levels and contexts.

“I was especially impressed by SG2018’s use of debates as an interpersonal way of delivering training and sharing information on different perspectives. In my opinion, this was a very effective way for government representatives to discuss different perspectives on how to reach ownership and sustainability of financial inclusion efforts moving forward. I was also very touched by the testimonies of beneficiaries who shared their experiences of how VSLA groups have changed their lives.

“My participation in SG2018 was very valuable for several reasons such as training and gaining new information but I especially appreciated the exposure and opportunity to network with so many diverse professionals working in the field of financial inclusion. I can say that it was a privilege and an opportunity for me to participate in this conference SG2018.”

About POWER Africa

POWER Africa, with support from the Mastercard Foundation, has increased the financial inclusion of over 750,000 individuals and their households across Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire, particularly targeting poor, food insecure households in rural areas, with a focus on women and adolescent girls.

POWER’s learning event was held to share and discuss the project’s rich learning in the areas of youth entrepreneurship and livelihoods; resilience; linking VSLAs to formal financial service providers and mobile network operators; CARE’s Village Agent model for scaling delivery of programming; and the importance of designing gender equality into financial inclusion programming.

POWER Africa’s learning documents can be found here