Emerance Nyirankunzwenabake, a VSLA member in Gakenke District said: “Before, when we used to save money hand-to-hand, we could spend two hours in a VSLA meeting. But today, by using SAVE app, just 40 minutes is enough to close all VSLA’s activities.”
Another user of the SAVE app, Xaverine Mukankubito a VSLA member from the Rulindo District said: “Today, we save using our mobile phones, and if you need to request a loan you use the phone, wherever you are, and you get your money immediately. For instance, if I go to Kigali and run out of money, I can easily call the management committee requesting a loan, and without any delay I get money and continue buying, and so I do my business faster.”
Trócaire Country Director in Rwanda, Marleen Masclee, said the app helps improve women’s empowerment and livelihoods.
“Grouping people together and supporting them to save and invest in their livelihoods has had a great impact. The introduction of the digitalisation of the VSLA system has been a change in how things were done. This innovation has shown us a large number of lessons and advantages.
“Before, you would see people coming together and put money in a cashbox, and they would have to write everything down in a book, which was a time-consuming exercise. Things were quite slow in terms of decisions making and approval of loan requests because everything had to be done when all group members would be physically together. Now, with a digital system in place, people can save in the privacy of their home, using their mobile phones (just a basic mobile phone is needed), they request loans, they put in their savings, and the decisions can be made at any time of the day.”
“Another important positive impact can be seen in that it is now much easier to link women and men to formal financial institutions as the digital system can generate reports and can show a saving and repayment history.”
Savings groups play an important role in Rwanda, particularly in rural areas and among women. In 2020, 78 percent of Rwandans used some form of informal mechanism (such as community-based savings groups) to manage their finances.
Rwanda has been encouraging the financial sector and ordinary citizens to embrace electronic platforms to carry out personal financial transactions in a move towards a cashless economy and achieving associated goals around financial inclusion, digital literacy, long-term savings, e-governance, business creation, health insurance, women’s empowerment, and more. In 2020, 86 percent of the population had access to a mobile phone, while digital payments made up 30 percent of transactions in 2020, up from 19 percent in 2016.