A South African startup called the United African Stokvel is taking on the challenge of digitizing traditional informal savings unions in the country with the goal of encouraging more people to save.
Stokvels, informal credit unions in South Africa, are common in many parts of Africa and are largely used to pool together fixed amounts of money either weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, with the goal of assisting group members whenever they need loans or financial assistance.
So far, the service has over 2, 000 active saving members in South Africa, a country where over 66% of households do not save.
The startup makes money through investments in property and mobile communications.
“We offer privacy in the individual’s savings, choice on the amount and timeframe of their savings cycle, how their savings and rewards are spent once received, and digital platforms to interact with us, receive information and assistance.
“We encourage all our members to like our Facebook page so that they can keep up to date with our exciting developments. We have no joining or membership fees. Members are not required to recruit members.” ~ Chairman, Darren Langbein
Some common informal savings unions in Africa are:
- Chamas – East Africa
- Susus – West Africa
- Stokvels – Southern Africa
Attempts to digitize such informal groups has been previously attempted with little success.
ChamaPesa, a blockchain-based app in Kenya, was introduced with similar goals but with limited success despite over 41% of the Kenyan population being in chamas.
Exuus is another decentralized service for savings groups and individuals in Rwanda. The services seeks to empower savings groups financially via an open and user-friendly savings group ledger handling. Its savings product, GetSave, has received investor funding and currently in development.
United African Stokvel seems to be taking a more practical approach by offering the following:
- Affordable savings plans from as low as $10 per month
- Upto 12 customized savings plans for different kinds of people
- Earn rewards based on how much one saves
- Open to anyone across the world
Social savings groups are rooted in community relations and offer ease of access to loans making them highly attractive across Africa. Such groups are seen to promote underlying values of collective responsibility and United Africa Skotvel seem to have gotten this model right.
RECOMMENDED READING: Why Chamas are of Enduring Importance in Kenya