FEATURED: SBFIC pushing for capacity development in East African microfinance sector

Heads of Micro finance institutions from 5 countries in East Africa on the 3rd December 2018 convened in Kigali during a 2 day Regional Network for the East African microfinance Capacity Development (NEAMCD) workshop to share updates and to discuss on coordination issues.

The workshop organized by the German based organization “Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation” (SBFIC) attracted member from national bodies of capacity development, Rwanda Institute for Cooperatives Entrepreneurship and Microfinance (RICEM) and members from the National Umbrella of Associations of Micro Finances from 5 countries in East Africa, representing more than 1800 financial services providers: Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.

The event follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the Network for East African Microfinance Capacity Development (NEAMCD) last year where representatives of microfinance roof organizations as well as microfinance academies of all five East African countries met in Dar es Salaam to establish a platform for exchanging experiences in capacity development in the microfinance sector.

During the workshop, members shared experiences and lessons about their own experiences promoting responsible financial inclusion in their country.

There is a critical lack of appropriately trained Microfinance Institution staff, especially when it comes to consumer protection and client-focused services. Providing valuable training and technical assistance opportunities to ensure MFIs continue to develop these requisite skills is a key priority area for Associations

Discussions revolved around capacity development of members of the network and the association roles in responsible financial inclusion in their respective environments, including advocacy work, delivery of products and services to members, involvement in financial education for sector clients, and the establishment of client grievance redress mechanisms at the sector level.

According to the Regional Coordinator for East AFrica of SBFIC, Britta Konitzer, the members are getting trained in capacity development so that they may go back home and training and  coaching their members and also shared experiences on different initiatives and challenges that they face in their countries.

“It was an opportunity for the members to share and compare experiences like the success story of the Performance Monitoring Tool (PMT) designed by the Association of Micro Finance Institutions in Uganda (AMFIU) that merges data from all member institutions allowing them to evaluate the performance of their members institutions ” she said

New network members

Also on the agenda during the workshop was the voting of the inclusion of new member institution into NEAMCD.

In 2014, SBFIC was approached by EAMFINET an East African microfinance body and asked whether they could contribute to the capacity development initiative and the idea was taken up on the NEAMCD network.

“Our role now is to support them through giving technical assistance and advice and we appreciate our new members” said Britta

Two members, Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Ltd (UCSCU) and SELF Microfinance Fund (SELF MF) from Tanzania made a formal request to join the network which led to voting as required by the MOU.

The requirements are that for one to join, the institution must either be a National umbrella microfinance association, an association of micro finance with a key development initiative in the area of capacity development or an institution/ academy that provides capacity development to its members

“It was important that we enlarge our network and we welcomed these two Institutions because they had been very active and it is the reason that the members voted unanimously in their favor to join the network”.

Voting of new coordinators

Also as part of the activities of the end of the 2 day network, the members voted new coordinators to run NEAMCD for the next year.

Jacky Mbabazi, the Executive Director of the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU), as a NEAMCD’s coordinator and Marie Louise Kamikazi, Executive Director of the Réseau des Institutions Microfinance (RIM) from Burundi as her deputy.

It was established that she would hold the office for one year until another member is voted into office. According to the MOU, the position is rotational and the two coordinators are not to be from the same country of origin.

Feedback from participants

Participants established an action plan for the network’s activities until the end of next year and made real updates from the one that was made one year ago and though about almost all issues that they should tackle immediately.

It was established that associations play a key role in sharing data and insights on the microfinance sector in their countries, which also provides a valuable opportunity for them to build visibility and credibility.

Associations also help facilitate collaboration between different MFIs to ensure that messaging to clients on industry standards, rights and responsibilities is consistent.

This is important for developing trust between clients and their MFIs. Associations can play an important role by encouraging their members to accurately report credit data, use available services and rewarding responsible behaviors.

They can also encourage clients to know their credit status and advocate on behalf of members regarding credit information sharing regulations.

Members of NEAMCD today include; Association of Microfinance Institutions of Kenya (AMFIK), Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR), Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU), Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship and Microfinance (RICEM), Réseau des Institutions de Microfinance au Burundi (RIM), Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC East Africa as an advisor), Tanzania Association of Microfinance Institutions (TAMFI Tanzania), SELF Microfinance Fund (SELF MF) and Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Ltd (UCSCU)

2nd East African Financial Education Forum: All set for Sustainable Financial Education for a better future

On 5th December, 2018, the 2nd East African Financial Education Forum kicked off with welcome remarks from Britta Konitzer SBFIC Regional Coordinator East Africa at the headquarters in Kigali.

Afterwards Mrs. Inga Klünder-Preuß, Deputy Head of German Cooperation representing the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development which finances all activities of SBFIC in East Africa, opened the forum officially.

Among other participants, this forum was attended by numerous representatives from Microfinance Association of Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, their Umbrella organizations, the East African Microfinance Network (EAMFINET) and their members, the microfinance institutions of the East African countries.

The interactive event, aimed at attracting heads of financial institutions from 5 countries, which are set to enhance sustainable financial education in East Africa.

This activity was organized by the Savings banks Foundation for International cooperation- (SBFIC) a non-profit organization that was founded in 1992 with the aim of undertaking co-operation projects in developing and transition countries.

Dubbed as the “All set for sustainable financial education for a better future,” the forum focused on financial inclusions, digital finance and financial assimilation games. 

According to Britta, SBFIC together with their partners in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have been supporting Financial Education and saving mobilization for over eight years and they chose Digital Finance and Sustainability as the two focus topics of this year’s Financial Education forum.

“This is the second East African Financial Education Forum that comes after the first forum in 2015 which mainly focused on financial training for children but now we have shifted the focus and have enlarged the program to cover financial education for adults and particularly for women” said Britta

The Simulation Games

The forum was enriched with new products like the simulation games

The three training  products, Saving Simulation game for Adults and the Farmers Business Game and the Micro Business Game that have been designed for families, women and farmers in Rwanda to help them financialy literate.

According to Geofrey Chelibei The general approach os that SBFIC sets up a training for local multipliers called “training of trainers by experiaced international trainers and latter the local multipliers attend workshops for advanced trainers to exchange their experiancies as trainers and follow up training sessions.

Saving Simulation for Adults

Savings Game is a highly interactive training for private households, young adults and small family-run business owners who want to manage a family budget successfully and to accumulate savings.

The training of clients requires 2 trainers and takes 3 full days and the number of participants that attend the training should be not less than 16 and should not exceed 25 people.

Those targeted for these training products include adult people above 16 years old (youth, women and men) perform some responsibilities at the household level. These include adult clients of the microfinances institutions and members of cooperatives in the country.

Also Adult students in Secondary and High Institutions of learning that deserve Financial Literacy Education plus working class or staff members of some Institutions eg staff of MFIs, Government institutions like police and Army are also targeted

The idea of the Savings Game is to support participants to learn how to manage a household budget effectively and to accumulate savings by applying an experience-based approach that helps them understand the meaning of a household budget and learn how to manage it.

The Farmers Business Simulation

This is an illustrative and effective practical learning approach which enables farmers to easily understand how to do farming as a business and ways to improve farm profits.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The simulation involves a special designed board, which graphically lays out the structure of a farming enterprise and the key decision points that a farmer takes in the course of operating a farming business enterprise.

The general objective of the board-based Farmers’ Business Simulation is to raise the knowledge and skills of small holder farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs and managers of financial institutions on the nature of farm business, organization and management by explaining basic unique nature of agricultural enterprises.

The game enables trained farmers to make a reasoned planning of costs and investments and to understand more of financial institutions and how to work with them.

Micro Business Game

The Micro Business Game teaches how to manage a small fruit store. It is a highly interactive training for micro entrepreneurs and for all people who want to learn in practice how the success and sustainability of start-ups and small businesses can be improved.

The overall objective of the Micro Business Game is to experience how to manage a micro business effectively used experience based approach.

Participants of the training learn the crucial principals of running a store and how to deal with upcoming challenges and opportunities.

Financial Education For Women

Commonly known as Tinyuka Wigire Munyarwandakazi, this product is meant to improve the well-being of women by making financial services easily accessible.

The overall objective is financial inclusion of women with low income and improvement of the family’s well-being. By raising awareness of the importance of financial planning, Financial Education for Women has had an essential role in reducing poverty

According to Alphosine Musabyimana a Financial Education Expert at SBFIC, the product has helped to spread financial literacy among low income women by building their Knowledge and skills that have enabled them to manage their own finances.

“It teaches women about the advantages of financial planning and provides them with the advantage of understanding the purpose of saving plus the use and possible achievements of getting a loan, using it effectively and being able to pay it back on time”

Financial Education and Digital Finance

During the session of the forum, Bashir Iddi the IT expert at SBFIC in a presentation highlighted the advantages and challenges of Financial Education and Digital Finance and emphasized that promoting financial inclusion implies undertaking concrete actions, which lead towards improved access to services provided by the financial sector.

The first session addressed several issues related to the progress, challenges and opportunities in terms of financial inclusion. special emphasis was given to the importance of national strategies to promote and coordinate all the efforts related to financial inclusion.

“Financial education is the process by which individuals improve their understanding of financial products, services and concepts to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence” said Bashir

During the second session, the participants and panellists had the opportunity to discuss the role and contribution of their institutions and society in financial education.

Afterwards there was another session on “Sustainability of Financial Education”

Here participants discussed ways of engaging target communities in the financial education process to present a far-reaching, appealing, sustainable program.

Such initiatives are designed to be fun, engaging, and motivating—inspiring participants of all ages to take positive action.

Financial stability refers to having the ability to manage financial resources to meet family financial needs throughout one’s life cycle and through ups and downs of economy at large.

Size, allocation, and composition of household’s financial resources play a critical role in achieving such financial stability. The composition of a household’s financial resources is a function of financial habits, values, beliefs, and practices.

Complexity of financial behavior calls for a multidisciplinary approach to future education and research efforts.

The goal of all financial educational efforts must be to ensure that people gain knowledge leading to the development of habits and behaviors resulting in long-term financial security of their households and society at large

Feedback from participants

As a conclusion of the works of the forum, it was strongly highlighted that Digital finance is a fundamental component for empowering consumers and investors and that it has a big role to play in Financial Education.

The responsibility for acquiring all the necessary financial knowledge to take well-informed decisions is a common responsibility among numerous stakeholders: individuals, households, government, education sector, financial services sector, employers, and labour organizations.

It was also established that there is need to increase the financial Inclusion to Financial education, introduce digital services and that partners of SBFIC should have ownership spirit on FE programs.

Participants also suggested that they increase the budget for FE and to adopt the FE methodology at the union plus efforts to increase knowledge sharing plus introducing products that empower women and youthLast but not least, the implementation of digital technologies in micro finance institutions and the implementation of sustainable planning for customers and staff of Microfinance institutions.

Finally the FE Forum was officially closed by the DG of RCA (Rwanda Cooperative Agency), Jean Bosco Harelimana

In his closing remarks,  Harelimana said that he was happy to get the opportunity to be part of the “2nd East African Financial Education Forum”. “During the past 2 days experiences and ideas on financial education have been exchanged and discussed and I appreciate very much that this Forum provides a platform for East African Experts in the field of Financial Education” said Harelimana

He added that the GoR appreciates SBFIC’s initiatives in financial education, thanked the organizers and all the visitors and guests for having been in Rwanda for the event and wished them a safe trip home.

Emmanuel Ntakirutinana Trainer SBFIC
It takes a lot to be a trainer and before anything you must have the patience to take every one through however slow.

My domain is the Famers Business Game. I train farmers and customers of banking institutions and cooperative members to obtain knowledge of crop selection and different cropping systems.

We also help them to learn on how best they can manage their small farming businesses, become familiar with options to mitigate risks related to harvesting and many other hazards and uncertainties.

Though it is a new product, we have so far been able to reach and train members in eight cooperatives around the country.

Altemius Millinga Managing Director YETU MICROFINANCE Bank
I came here in my capacity as vice chairperson of Tanzania Association of Microfinance Institutions (TAMFI) Tanzania and I have really enjoyed the discussions that we’ve had these few days.

The first two days focused on capacity building and it was very useful because we had a regional outlook on what the institution can do and we shared experiences from other countries which were rich and transferable.

One issue which was very critical was that of Data which many of the countries lacked. Data is very important especially when it comes to advocacy for our associations.

The meeting provided the ground for the building of effective network and the education forum was also exciting as we were taken through the business games which also have some challenges if they are to reach out to the majority of the targeted groups.

Jackson Kwikiriza Senior Programs Manager at AMIR
The essence of this forum was mainly to train microfinance practitioners and affiliation members so that when they go back to their respective countries, they can transfer the skills and ideas to their own beneficiaries, staff and clients.

The core message is to ensure that the client of microfinance institutions can now have the knowledge on saving, borrowing and how to use different channels to either save or access finance through applying Digital Finance.

They can after training decide to get their money on a push or chose to save their money in a bank and also accessing their money instantly without travelling long distances and cueing at the bank.

So managers and loan officers of microfinances should have the skills on how to design products which are tailored for their clients.

Dr. Sylvester Ndiroramukama CEO UCSCU
Our core mandate at UCSCU is capacity development of institutions so that they are able to be sustainable and as such serve the communities who are members of this institution.

Of course we have been here since Monday and we started with a workshop on East African Microfinance Network which has six member countries of which Uganda is now a new member.

Today we started the Financial Education Forum and because the mandate of UCSCU is capacity development, the focus on financial education and financial inclusion fits in our agenda.

Uganda is one of the countries where SBFIC is starting its operations so we came in at the right time to consolidate and participate with other countries in the region.

So we want to thank SBFIC for that initiative for making sure that there is Financial Inclusion and for pushing for Financial Education in East Africa.

Stephen Noel Safe SBFIC Country Director Tanzania
The workshop that started here on Monday brought together members of East Africa microfinance institutions to network and share ideas plus the drawing of a 2019 action plan.

We are coming from different countries that share different experiences so it was really good to share ideas and way forward. The beauty of it is that not only shall we as managers benefit but also the people we serve are going to benefit greatly from this collaboration.

From Rwanda the simulation games that are being used to push for Financial Education and Inclusion are a very good tool that can be used by all even those that may not be literate.