Archive for the ‘Uganda’ Category

Can trust and reciprocity within social networks play a role in rural financial systems?

May 2, 2012

Julius Matovu is the Research and Program Coordinator for Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money Incubator.

Let me introduce two interesting petty traders based in Owino market – the busiest market in downtown Kampala. They are Akim, a secondhand-shoes trader, and Patrick, a secondhand-clothes dealer.

Last weekend I visited this market for a variety of reasons – including buying some “new” secondhand clothes to revamp my wardrobe. As I wandered through the market I came across these two different petty traders; because each of these individuals had something that I may need at some point, I had a good entry point for an in-depth interaction with each of them, to understand what they do. During my interactions, I observed a huge business potential based on the high number of people who visit Owino market every day. I also realized that for someone to tap into this opportunity, they must have sufficient capital. Most petty traders do not have adequate capital and can not turn to formal financial institutions because they do not meet current requirements to access credit.

However, my newfound friends have found a solution to this problem. They have developed a network of people who run similar businesses within Owino, and rely on people in these networks to extend quick credit to each other in times of deficits.

Read the rest of this post at our AppLab blog >>

Last-Mile Mobile Money Agents Bridging the Gap

April 20, 2012

Ali Ndiwalana is Research Lead for Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money Incubator. Below is an excerpt from our AppLab blog, followed by a link to the full post.

Agents are critical for the success of a mobile money (MM) ecosystem; they provide an avenue for cash-in (converting cash into “e-value”) and cash-out transactions. Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money team has been to many rural villages in our quest to better understand the needs of users, and have often encountered mobile money users, but no agents in the vicinity. When users told us they made regular transactions, we asked how they managed to do this. In many cases, it was via unofficial agents or “last-mile agents,” as we refer to them. So we started looking out for last-mile agents.

We did not have to wait long. Our next research assignment took us to Luweero, to interview individual users and learn more about their financial flows and sources of income. As luck would have it, we encountered two registered mobile money users who were also operating as last-mile agents – providing mobile money services to people in their village as a side business.

The first individual – for privacy’s sake, let’s call him John – was serving a community of unregistered users by sending and receiving money using his mobile money account. The bulk of his customers were villagers receiving money sent by relatives working far away. Because his customers dealt in low-value transactions, he made a profit by aggregating multiple small transactions into one large transaction, while charging for each separately. For example, if three villagers received money via his MM account and he had no cash on hand to clear them, he would aggregate all their money and just make one single withdrawal from his MM account.

Read the full blog post at the AppLab Blog.

Power for CKWs in Uganda

April 3, 2012

Chris Smith and Gillian Evans are a husband and wife team volunteering in Uganda with Grameen Foundation through our Bankers without Borders® volunteer initiative. As Strategy Manager, Chris is responsible for business planning and Grameen Foundation’s relationship with MTN Uganda.  Gillian is an Education Specialist, responsible for developing and applying training best practices in the field and helping build the training center of excellence in Uganda.  Chris and Gillian live in Kampala with their two children and will complete their one-year volunteer term on July 31.  You can read about their experience as a family living and working for Grameen Foundation in Uganda on their blog at www.smithsinuganda.com.

As part of its Mobile Agriculture initiative, which leverages the power of the mobile phone to help fight “information poverty” among poor, rural farmers, Grameen Foundation has deployed more than 800 Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) across Uganda in 20 districts, serving almost 62,000 farmers. Our CKWs use simple Huawei IDEOS smart phones that cost about $80 and run the Android software platform. This is a cost-effective and easy-to-use solution to get agriculture tips, market prices, weather forecasts and lots of other information to poor farmers deep in rural villages.

A problem we encountered early in the development and deployment of the program was the lack of reliable electricity in those rural villages to charge the smartphones. When we launched the CKW program two years ago, we gave car batteries to the CKWs as a means of charging their phones – but this worked out about as well as you might imagine. We then found a partner in a San Francisco based startup called Fenix, which was designing and building solar-charging solutions for use by the rural poor. We’ve developed an excellent relationship with the Fenix team over the last year, and we are deploying the Fenix ReadySet solar-charging solution to all of our CKWs.

The Fenix ReadySet allows our CKWs to charge their phones using a solar panel.

The ReadySet is very easy to use and provides an additional income stream to the CKW, on top of enabling them to do their job delivering information to farmers and conducting surveys. With the ReadySet, the CKW can now build a side business by charging their neighbors and friends a small amount of money to recharge their phones, to run a haircutting service with electric hair clippers or enable a multitude of other micro-business opportunities that need reliable electricity. It also helps the CKWs personally, because now they can run a light bulb in their house, to enable their kids to read and do homework after the sun sets, to ensure greater security, and to reduce the use of kerosene and other fuels they typically burn for light.

Watch this video to see CKW Annette talk about how she is using the ReadySet to help her deliver information to farmers, recharge her neighbors’ mobile phones, and create a better and more secure home life for her family.

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Mobile Money Savings Systems: What Do Users Think?

March 23, 2012

Grameen Foundation’s Lisa Kienzle, Olga Morawczynski and Ali Ndiwalana recently co-authored a blog post with Ignacio Mas on the blog Mobile Active. Here they  introduce and user-test one concept of savings: deferred payments over mobile money. Below is an excerpt, followed by a link to the full post.

Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money believes that mobile money is essentially a liquidity-management platform. Put differently, it could be described as LiFi: Connecting people to an electronic payment system via their mobile phones that provides Liquidity with Fidelity. What does it take to turn mobile money systems into a full-fledged savings platform? A full savings proposition would address these additional key elements:

  • Mechanisms to help people link their savings vehicles to particular savings purposes or spending goals
  • Incentives and discipline mechanisms to help customers set money aside into their savings vehicle(s), or “discipline in”
  • Incentive and discipline mechanisms to help people keep money in their savings vehicle(s) once it is saved, or “discipline out.”

The challenge is how to optimize the mobile money environment by adding these sorts of features without making mobile money so complex and unwieldy that it is difficult or impossible to manage on simple mobile phones.

Read the full post on the MobileActive blog >>

Turning Insights into Products: Gambling on Applab Money

March 19, 2012

Our Applab Money initative focuses on researching, prototyping and testing innovative financial products to reach poor people who don’t typically have access to these resources. Project Manager Olga Morawczynski and Operations and Strategy Manager Lisa Kienzle recently wrote on the CGAP blog about the need to develop creative products that focus on existing customer desires, use patterns, and needs. One example: using the idea of gaming and gambling to create a helpful product for poor people.

Arthur plays a popular board game called Ludo.

What follows is one example of an interesting insight that emerged on a recent field visit that could be translated into a product that poor customers could find exciting: on our trip, we noticed that everyone loves gambling.

While visiting a village in East Africa, we met a farmer named Arthur who enjoyed gambling in his spare time. We watched him spend $2 as an entrance fee to join three other players in a popular board game called Ludo (see photo). Arthur lost this round, and the entire pot of $8 was handed over to his neighbor. When asked why he played if there was a risk of loss, Arthur explained that the potential returns were very high – in fact, it would take him one week of intensive labor (such as digging on his neighbor’s farm) to earn what he could win from one round of Ludo. If he won the pot, he would set aside half as an “emergency fund” for his family to protect against shocks – such as an unexpected illness – and reinvest the rest into the game.

Imagine, they said, what would happen if Arthur had access to a formal financial product that provided a safeguard against emergencies, but the sensation of a game.

Read the full post on the CGAP blog.

A Farmer Milks His Smartphone to Help His Cow

August 23, 2011

Dani Limos is a Marketing and Communications Intern at Grameen Foundation’s Seattle office.

The dairy cow needed more calcium.

When Gonzaga Kawuma’s cow collapsed and could not stand up, Gonzaga was away from his farm. His wife called him on his smartphone with the disheartening news. Without seeing the cow in person, without conducting expensive tests, without being an expert in agriculture, Gonzaga was able to conclude that the cow needed more calcium.

Why was this cow having trouble standing up? Gonzaga relied on his smartphone to diagnose its illness.

This cow’s fall could have been caused by a number of ailments – muscle fatigue, arthritis, foot rot – but a shortage of calcium in a cow that produces milk? How could Gonzaga ever come up with such a diagnosis?

As a Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) in Uganda, Gonzaga has access to a wealth of farming knowledge through mobile phone technology. He helps other poor farmers every day find solutions to their problems, providing them with information about weather, crop and animal diseases, market prices, and the like. Now, as a poor farmer himself, he was his own client. He took out his smartphone, typed in the symptoms of his dairy cow and pored through databases of information. The verdict? “Milk fever.”

Caused by a sudden shortage of blood calcium, milk fever causes the cow to stagger, experience difficulty rising, and finally become unable to stand at all. It often occurs when the cow gives birth, and the demand for calcium to produce milk exceeds its ability to do so. Gonzaga’s cow had given birth just three days ago.

Gonzaga was able to save his cow – and his livelihood – thanks to the information he found using his smartphone.

The information that Gonzaga had found suggested contacting a veterinarian for help. Taking advantage of his smartphone once again, he called a vet, who prescribed a calcium injection. The treatment was administered and the cow successfully recovered. Thanks to Gonzaga’s CKW access, the cow is healthy and currently produces between 18 and 20 liters of milk per day!

Learn more  about our Community Knowledge Worker program in our previous blog posts, or read more at Grameen Foundation’s AppLab website.