Saving for Change Mobile Banking Project in Senegal
Learning from the 2015 review of the SfC + Mobile Pilot
In 2005, in response to the challenge of 2.5 billion adults worldwide lacking access to formal accounts at financial institutions, Oxfam America teamed up with Freedom from Hunger and the Strømme Foundation to launch Saving for Change (SfC). This grassroots approach to poverty alleviation and economic empowerment first began in Mali, and later that same year in Cambodia. In the last decade, SfC expanded to three more countries – Senegal, Guatemala, and El Salvador – and today reaches more than 730,000 members who have collectively saved $55 million USD.
Savings groups (SGs) respond to the unmet needs of the rural poor by providing basic financial services in the form of a secure place to save regularly; the opportunity to borrow in small amounts and to share in the profit accumulated by the group at the end of a cycle. At the end of a saving cycle—generally a year—the fund is divided and each woman receives her savings plus a share of the profit made up of fines, interest paid on loans and revenues from income generating activities undertaken by the group.
SfC expanded quickly – and often organically – in its early years. SfC groups now had a foundational understanding of how to manage their money, but how could they leverage their funds to further reduce food insecurity in their communities and support income generating activities? Oxfam began to address this question in 2012 through a suite of new services, trainings, and products requested by members themselves called “SfC +”, including SfC + Agriculture, SfC + Business, SfC + Citizenship, SfC + Mobile, SfC + Health, and integration with R4.
SfC + Mobile was piloted in Senegal between 2014 - 2015. This program enables women to save and pay back loans directly on their cell phones instead of putting coins in the group savings box. This increases the safety of their savings and plugs them into a wider electronic payment system (mobile money, mobile transactions, and peer-to-peer transfers). This also increases their financial literacy and positions the more experienced and advanced groups to become clients of the formal banking sector.
At the end of 2015 Oxfam carried out an internal learning review of the project. Oxfam Great Britain had resources allocated to finance learning processes related to the use of technology in development. Oxfam America and Oxfam Great Britain teamed up to carry out another in depth qualitative study of the Saving for Change mobile banking pilot in May 2016. For more details, download the two reports on this webpage.