We all know how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the informal financial groups (IFGs). Mobility was restricted and social gatherings were prohibited. Many IFGs in Africa remained uncertain about getting back on track. Dependence on cash as the primary means of transactions too became a challenge.
SACCOs in Kenya and Tanzania were also struck by the severity of the pandemic. According to Saccotimes, the rate at which SACCOS disburse loans went down due to limited uptake by members. Withdrawals went high due to the cash crunch. Many members remained skeptical about taking loans due to the uncertainty as a result of the pandemic.
As the global pandemic continues, glimmers of hope appear in the form of vaccines that can get the world moving again. But will the world go back the way it was before?
When it comes to informal financial services in Africa, things can change significantly with the help of technology. Let us take a look at various ways technology can play a role in helping SACCOS after the pandemic.
Mobile payments as the priority
Strong uptake in the usage of mobile banking services was expected during the pandemic.
To follow movement restrictions and reduce the usage of cash, SACCOS adopted mobile technologies to make digital payments. This was to ensure that members can send their deposits online without moving out of their homes. Services like M-Pesa and T-Pesa have helped them make payments seamlessly.
With mobile technologies, SACCOS can continue to offer instant and secure payments. This can lead to faster services and ensure a safer experience for members. The rate of fraud and theft can also minimize.
Online meetings as the new norm
Members of SACCOS attend physical meetings every month or twice a month. This was stopped due to the imposed restrictions. SACCOS learned to meet online through various digital tools to continue their meetings. The Government of Kenya also suggested organizations to conduct virtual meetings to avoid any physical interactions.
Continuing the usage of such services will help them reach members instantly and save their travelling time. Further adoption of digital tools can help them offer better services and increase their chances to attract more members.
Digital loans to individuals and businesses
Many online studies suggest that people will continue using online channels to access financial services. As business owners and entrepreneurs look to revive their businesses, the demand for loans is expected to rise.
Many African might turn to SACCOS and other savings groups to apply for loans. With the help of technology, SACCOS can provide instant and affordable loans online. The loan amount can be transferred directly to the mobile wallet of the applicant. Furthermore, it will be a lot easier to manage the finances of different members as transactions will record automatically.
As a technology-driven company, we have built CAMS, a digital solution to help IFGs embrace technology. CAMS is an initiative to help SACCOS and microfinance institutions offer digital financial services. With CAMS, members can use their mobile wallets to send contributions, apply for loans, and manage their finances online.
CAMS can help perform various admin-related tasks to make SACCOS management smoother and more secure.
As SACCOS eye to get back on track, embracing technology seems to be the way forward. Technology can enable the transformation of SACCOS towards a more advanced and user-centric future.
However, this is not an overnight task. IFGs and tech companies need to work together and embrace the technology.