The Bank of Zambia (BoZ) Agent Banking Directives (2022) have been issued and gazetted by the Government of the Republic of Zambia under the Gazette Notice No. 1476 dated 30th September, 2022.
The purpose of the Agent Banking Directives is to provide a regulatory framework for Agent Banking to promote financial inclusion, cost effective delivery channels for payment system, electronic money or financial services and to provide authorized activities of agents.
Further, the directives are meant to set minimum standards for data, network security, consumer protection and risk management in the conduct of Agent Banking.
This entails that regulated entities by BoZ that intend to engage in Agent Banking shall apply in writing to the Bank for authorization.
Applicants for Agent Banking are required to include a Risk Assessment Report on Agent Banking with measures to be adopted to mitigate the risks, internal audit report for internal controls, approved internal policies and procedures for anti-Money Laundering/Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) and the list of financial services to be provided.
On the use of Third-Party Technology Service Providers, a regulated entity may enter into a written contract for the provision of equipment or technology platform to be used for Agent Banking.
However, the regulated entity shall remain liable for Agent Banking Activities even where a third-party technology service provider is engaged.
The Agent Banking Directives came into force on the day they were published in the Government Gazette on the 30th September, 2022.
Under the Strategic Partnership Component, RUFEP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BoZ in 2016 to deliver specific outcomes within the Central Bank’s mandate as a financial sector regulator to promote financial inclusion. The issuance of the Agent Banking Directives, Gazette Notice No.1476 of 2022 under the Banking and Financial Services Act of 2017 and the National Payment Systems Act, 2007 is one of the outcomes of the Strategic Partnership between RUFEP and BoZ.
The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have agreed to a ‘no cost extension’ of the Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP) for a period of one year.
The Financing agreement for RUFEP (2014-2022) between GRZ and IFAD dated 17th July, 2014 which was due for completion by 30th September, 2022 was extended by one year to 30th September, 2023.
The decision was made to allow for finalization of some activities that were delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and to facilitate the design of a new follow up programme.
Following a request for a twelve month no-cost extension of RUFEP by the GRZ through the Ministry of Finance and National Planning dated 7th September, 2022, IFAD agreed to extend RUFEP for one year.
IFAD East and Southern Africa Division Regional Director Sara Mbago-Bhunu confirmed the extension of RUFEP in a statement to the Minister of Finance and National Planning Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane dated 23rd September, 2022.
“I’m pleased to inform you that IFAD Management has approved the extension of project completion date from 30 September 2022 to 30 September 2023 and the financing closing date from 31st March 2023 to 31st March 2023”, Mbago-Bhunu said.
Meanwhile, IFAD Zambia Country Programme Officer, Dr. Brian Kapotwe said the IFAD Mission conducted from 15-23 September, 2022 for RUFEP was changed from a Completion Mission to a Supervision Mission in view of the extension.
Dr. Kapotwe said GRZ requested for an extension based on the good performance of the programme which was granted by IFAD to consolidate the current achievements and to mobilise more resources to upscale the successful elements of the programme.
“This mission was initially meant to be a Completion Mission. It was changed to a Supervision Mission following GRZ’s request for a one (1) year ‘no cost extension’ of RUFEP which was granted by IFAD”, he said.
Speaking during the Supervision Mission, Dr. Kapotwe said RUFEP’s final impact assessment will still be done to empirically quantify the impact of the programme and to generate lessons learnt to inform future interventions and policy reforms.
By September 2022, RUFEP had effectively reached a total of 643,449 beneficiaries of which 57% were women. The Programme Design had initially targeted 140,000 households as beneficiaries which later revised to 500,000 households at the Mid -Term Review (MTR) in 2018.
And RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said the extension provides an opportunity for the smooth completion of activities by partners which had lagged behind due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“For Strategic Partners, among the activities pending includes the finalization of the MSME Finance Survey by BoZ conducted by ZamStats, the review of the Rural Finance Policy and Strategy by RFU, the development of a pilot wholesale agriculture value chain product by DBZ and the development of a centralized database for DFS usage by ZICTA”, he said.
Mr. Mbulo added that under the IOF Component, Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS), FINCA, UBA, EFC, Widenergy and Cattlemen Livestock Cooperative Society are some of the partners with pending activities to be completed during the extension
SOS Children’s Village of Zambia Trust has linked 110 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO) under the Promoting Village Own Savings Associations (PVOSA) project supported by RUFEP.
PVOSA was funded by RUFEP under the Community Based Financial Institutions (CBFIs) Linkages Window of the Innovation and Outreach Facility.
According to the grant agreement for the project with RUFEP, SOS Children’s Village Trust targeted to build the capacity of 75 VSLAs in Eastern and Southern Provinces of Zambia and link them to a formal financial institution.
Speaking during the IFAD Supervision Mission on the 19th September, 2022, SOS Children’s Villages Zambia Trust Family Strengthening Coordinator Osborn Kabingu said the project exceeded the target of linking 75 VSLAs by the close of the project in June 2022.
Mr. Kabingu said a Baseline Study and End line Survey was conducted at the inception and at the end of the project to assess the impact of interventions on the target beneficiaries.
“At the Baseline, financial literacy levels and household incomes were very low but have now improved due to the project intervention. Men’s participation was at 116 which has now increased to 149 at the End line Survey. Financial literacy trainings were conducted for the groups by ZANACO”, he said.
In terms of sustainability, Mr. Kabingu said the project used Village Agents and built their capacity to continue mobilizing communities to form savings groups and train others.
Among the challenges highlighted by SOS Children’s Village Trust were the COVID-19 Pandemic and the 2021 General Elections which made it a difficult to mobilize groups and communities.
During the meeting with VSLA groups supported by SOS Children’s Village Trust under the PVOSA Project based in Zambia Compound in Choma, group members questioned whether GRZ, IFAD or RUFEP could provide direct financial support to the groups to undertake much bigger projects.
RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said RUFEP does not provide direct financial support to the groups but through implementing partners such as SOS’ Children’s Village Trust.
Mr. Mbulo said since the groups were formally registered as Societies or as Cooperatives and linked with ZANACO, they could either access the Constituency Development Fund or access loans from ZANACO.
“ZANACO has a trail of your transactions as a group as you deposit and save. If you are consistent for a period of one (1) or two (2) years in terms of savings as a group, you can request for loan from your bank based on your records”, he said.
Responding to the same challenge, SOS Children’s Village Trust said the groups will also be linked to the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) to access any further available support from government.
The PVOSA Project was implemented under SOS Children’s Village Trust’s Alternative Care and Family Strengthening Programmes aimed to strengthen families at household level to reduce cases of child abandonment.
Digital Financial Services (DFSs) are financial services that are accessed and delivered through digital technologies such as mobile phones.
Promotion of cashless transactions through Digital Financial Services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is attributed to have had a positive impact on financial inclusion in Zambia.
However, since 2020, the increased use and adoption of Digital Financial Services has seen a corresponding increase in cases of cybercrimes and fraud especially for mobile phone-based transactions such as mobile money.
While mobile money has been a key driver for increasing financial inclusion, most rural people have been skeptical and slow to adopt Digital Financial Services particularly mobile money due to vulnerability to fraud.
Fraudsters target consumers of Digital Financial Services using mobile phones and a number of people have lost their money in rural and urban areas.
In 2020, RUFEP under the Strategic Partnership Component partnered with the Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) to enhance safety and security of Digital Financial Services and to promote financial inclusion.
Under the partnership agreement with RUFEP, ZICTA is further mandated to educate consumers about the benefits and risks of Digital Financial Services to promote increased uptake and usage.
From the 23rd-24th May, 2022, ZICTA convened a Stakeholders Consultative Workshop bringing together key stakeholders and regulators of the Digital Financial Services ecosystem to deliberate on regulation of DFSs in the wake of increasing cases of cybercrimes and fraud.
Among the stakeholders included Bank of Zambia as a Financial Sector regulator, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), the Zambia Police, Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Financial Intelligence Center (FIC), Bankers Association of Zambia (BAZ) and Mobile Money Agents.
Speaking at the official opening of the Workshop, RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said RUFEP recognized the important role Digital Financial Services play in the economic and social development of Zambia.
“The increased cases of DFSs fraud threatens the potential growth of the sector by compromising the quality of services offered, innovation in the sector, consumer satisfaction and security”, Mr. Mbulo said.
Speaking at the same occasion, ZICTA Acting Director General Mrs. Pethel Phiri thanked RUFEP for the partnership with ZICTA aimed to enhance security and safety of Digital Financial Services.
Mrs. Phiri said the workshop brought together key stakeholders who were interdependent on each other to ensure safety and security of Digital Financial Services.
ZICTA’s Manager Consumer Protection and Compliance Mr. Edgar Mlauzi said consumers might not know where to channel their grievances as issues` of fraud and cybercrimes were cross-cutting between regulators due to convergence of technology.
Mr. Mlauzi said there was need to look at regulatory overlaps of DFSs as ZICTA has always been blamed on cases of fraud due to lack of properly defined mandates for each regulator in the Digital Financial Services ecosystem.
“ZICTA’s mandate is to ensure that every area has Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) with good quality. As a result of ICTs, mobile phone booths are reaching the unbanked. On cybercrimes and fraud related cases, ZICTA is always blamed and yet the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) regulates financial services”, he said.
And ZICTA Legal Officer Alick Mponela said ZICTA’s role in the regulation of DFSs is secondary or supportive by licensing ICT service providers and ensuring quality of services.
Bank of Zambia, Manager for Research and Policy Mrs. Maureen Mulenga said it was not the mandate of the central bank to resolve customer complaints adding that the financial regulator only comes in when a service provider fails to provide recourse to consumer complaints.
“Most of the consumer complaints can be handled at the first point of call without coming through to the regulator. Service providers such as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) should make it clear how consumers should get hold of them in case of complaints”, Mrs. Mulenga said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Mulenga disclosed that the central bank has beefed up its Oversight Section in the wake of increasing cases of cybercrimes and BoZ was in the process of revising regulatory frameworks such as National Payment Systems Act Directives (2018) for Digital Financial Services.
Police Fraud and Cyber Crimes Unit Chief Inspector Geoffrey Zyambo said law enforcement is always lagging behind as cybercrimes and fraudsters keeps on evolving to beat the systems.
Inspector Zyambo said there was need for a collaborative framework for law enforcement agencies and regulators of Digital Financial Services.
The two days’ Workshop was attended by all the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Zambia namely MTN, Airtel and Zamtel.
On the second day all MNOs made presentations on what they were doing as service providers of Digital Financial Services on Risk Management in the wake of increasing cases of fraud.
Identity theft and issuance of pre-registered SIM Cards was cited as some of the types of fraud used by fraudsters to commit cybercrimes.
At the same occasion, the Institute of Risk Management Zambia Executive Director Mr. Francis Ziba called for the need to invest in risk management as organizations that fail to mitigate risks puts their reputation at risky.
Going forward, all the stakeholders recommended the need to have a collaborative framework to bring up all key players and spell out each regulators’ mandate in the regulation of Digital Financial Services.
The Financial Literacy Week is commemorated in Zambia and globally as part of the Global Money Week to promote financial education, literacy and ultimately financial wellbeing and resilience of all age groups.
Since 2013, Zambia has commemorated the Financial Literacy Week for the past 10 years. Held annually in the Month of March under different themes, the 2022 Financial Literacy Week ran from 21st to 27th March 2022 under the theme, “Build Your Future: Be Money Smart”.
The Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP) has been one of the key partners with other stakeholders in the Financial Sector supporting the Financial Literacy Week Campaigns in Zambia.
In 2022, RUFEP together with Zambia Rainbow Development Foundation (ZRDF) and Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO) commemorated the Financial Literacy Week targeting Savings Groups in Luano District in Mkushi North Constituency.
Mkushi North Constituency Member of Parliament(MP), Honorable Christopher Chibuye thanked RUFEP for supporting rural communities through Savings Groups in his constituency through ZRDF.
Commenting on the theme for 2022 Financial Literacy Week: Build Your Future: Be Money Smart, Honorable Chibuye urged his constituents to build and secure their future through savings.
“To the people of Mkushi North Constituency and the rest of the country, let us build our future by embracing a culture of saving and to secure our children’s future. Saving starts with small coins. By saving money and even food for the future, we secure our future”, he said.
Speaking during a courtesy call to the Area MP, RUFEP Programme Coordinator Mr. Michael Mbulo said the mandate of RUFEP was to ensure that rural people have access to and use of sustainable financial services in Zambia.
“RUFEP has been working with various partners such as Financial Service Providers (FSPs), Digital Financial Service (DFS) Providers, FinTechs and NGOs with interest in financial services provision for rural communities. In Mkushi North, we are working with ZRDF. As RUFEP, we do not do actual implementation but work through partners (such as ZRDF) as a sustainability strategy, so that when we are not there, they can continue working with rural communities”, Mr. Mbulo said.
The Community Based Financial Institutions (CBFIs) Linkages Project by ZRDF supported by RUFEP linked 25 SILC Groups and built capacity of over 100 SILC Groups by December 2020 when the project closed.
On the 23rd March 2022, RUFEP visited ZRDF in Mkushi North Constituency to meet Savings Groups supported by the Partner (ZRDF) in Luano Valley and to document lessons learnt.
RUFEP Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist, Mr. Cephas Moonga said the mission by RUFEP was conducted to harvest knowledge and lessons learnt from the project which completed in 2020 and to promote the Financial Literacy Week.
Speaking during a debriefing meeting in Masansa at ZRDF Offices before field visits, Mr. Moonga said continuity of project innovations beyond the RUFEP support was key to sustainability of interventions.
ZRDF Executive Director, Mr. Brandy Mungaila disclosed that following the project completion in 2020, his organization went beyond the catchment area and exceeded the targets set under the initial RUFEP supported project.
Mr. Mungaila disclosed that 52 SILC Groups were linked to ZANACO by March 2022 and assured that ZRDF will continue to build capacity of the groups beyond the support from RUFEP.
“While the RUFEP supported project under the Saving Group linkages targeted to link 25 SILC Groups to ZANACO, ZRDF has continued to support the groups and currently 296 SILC Groups had received capacity building support while 52 were linked to ZANACO”, he said.
And RUFEP Programme Coordinator Mr. Michael Mbulo said RUFEP’s implementation strategy was indirect through partners adding that ZRDF’s success was RUFEP’s success.
“By Mid-Term Review in 2018, RUFEP had exceeded its target of 140,000 Households in terms of outreach and this has increased to over 500,000 by March 2022. Credit goes to all our implementing partners including ZRDF for this success”, Mr. Mbulo said.
He said as RUFEP (2014-2022) was winding up its operations, it was necessary to document lessons learnt through data collection and knowledge harvesting as part of impact evaluation.
Mr. Mbulo thanked ZANACO for supporting RUFEP’s mission to expand rural financial inclusion through innovations such as the Community Based Financial Institutions Linkages Window and for the partnership during the Financial Literacy Week.
On the same day, RUFEP, ZRDF and ZANACO delegation visited selected SILC Groups linked to ZANACO in Mkushi. The groups visited are based in Fiwila and Kaloko Areas of Luano District.
Among the Savings Groups met in Fiwila and Kaloko Areas included Kamichelo, Wishalila, Twafweni, Tukamona, Tubombeshe, Kampoko Youth and Twafweni SILC Groups.
SILC Group Members shared testimonies of how Savings Groups have empowered them and improved their livelihoods.
Savings Group beneficiaries testified that they have increased their agricultural productivity through purchase of inputs, bought livestock, built better houses and have food and nutrition security.
Speaking during a meeting with Kamichelo SILC Groups, ZANACO Mkushi Branch Manager, Mr. Felix Kangwa expressed happiness that the engagements with the groups by the Bank through the partnership with ZRDF and RUFEP were bearing fruits.
Mr. Kangwa encouraged group members to continue saving within their groups and the bank to build their future and that of their children.
“From the testimonies, we have seen the goodness of saving. Save in the groups and loan each other or bring the money to the bank for safe keeping and to ensure money circulates. We want groups to grow so that we have bigger testimonies in future”, he said.
Later, in Kaloko and Fiwila, the delegation proceeded to meet Wishalila SILC Group where RUFEP, ZRDF and ZANACO continued to enlighten group members on the importance of saving.
Speaking during a meeting with Wishalila SILC Group, Mr. Mbulo said RUFEP’s partnership with ZRDF and ZANACO aims to ensure rural Savings Groups are part of the financial system to secure savings.
“ZRDF is training groups in financial literacy so that members can keep, save and invest to make more money. When your money grows you need to keep it safe with ZANACO. As we commemorate the financial literacy week across the country, we need to learn how to use money and invest to improve our lives”, he said.
The Financial Literacy Week contributes to the achievement of the objectives of the National Strategy on Financial Education (2019- 2024) launched in 2019. The objective of the strategy is to improve knowledge, understanding, skills, motivation and confidence for the Zambian population to secure positive financial outcomes for themselves and their families by 2024. The financial education and literacy campaigns target children, youths, adults and all age groups.
Savings Groups are informal Community Based Financial Institutions (CBFIs) providing access to financial services by rural people who are financially excluded.
Traditionally, Savings Groups have been using a Box to keep their money under the custody of their group Treasurer. The Box poses various security risks such as theft and fire, given that most rural homes are grass thatched.
Since inception in 2014, RUFEP through the Innovation and Outreach Facility (IOF) matching grants supported Savings Group Promoters to link informal CBFIs or Savings Groups to formal Financial Service Providers (FSPs) to avert the security risky of keeping money in the Box.
From 2016 to 2022, RUFEP has supported about 12 Implementing Partners (IPs) under the CBFIs linkages Window One (I) of the IOF to build capacity of Savings Groups or Village Banks and link them to formal financial institutions. This is to ensure security of group savings and to expand rural financial inclusion.
The Implementing Partners included Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Sector Organizations, Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs).
Among the NGOs supported by RUFEP since 2016 includes Keepers Zambia Foundation (KZF), Africare, Rising Fountains Development Programme (RFDP), Zambia Rainbow Development Foundation (ZRDF), SOS Children’s Village of Zambia Trust (SOS),- and Nutri-Aid Trust.
The Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), Kasama Christian Community Care (KCCC), Catholic Diocese of Mansa and Jesus Cares Ministries are some of the Faith Based Organizations supported by RUFEP to promote Savings Group linkages.
Among the Financial Services Providers that developed products for Savings Group linkages includes the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO), NATSAVE, Madison Finance, Vision Fund and FINCA.
ZANACO Head Preferred Banking, Mrs. Mbololwa Zimba disclosed that the Village Banking Product which attracts no bank charges was developed in 2019 as a result of RUFEP’s engagement with the Bank (ZANACO).
“RUFEPinvited us to a discussion forum where they explained on the challenges the groups were facing in terms of keeping their money safe.From that meeting RUFEP encouraged ZANACO to reflect on what solutions the Bank can provide forsavings groups or village banks”, Mrs. Zimba said.
By 2022, over 60,000 Savings Group members were linked to financial services by the Savings Group Promoters using different methodologies such as Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC), Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and OwnSavings for Assets and Wealth creation (OSAWE) etc.
CHAZ Microfinance Programme Officer, Mr. Joyous Sikalima disclosed that the initial challenge RUFEP partners faced on the CBFI linkages was that FSPs particularly banks did not understand the operations of Savings Groups or Village Banks.
Mr. Sikalima added that existing products offered by the banks were not suitable for Savings Groups or Village Banks as they attracted bank charges which proved to be a barrier for linkages.
“Following the development of the ZANACO Village Bank Product, CHAZ engaged ZANACO towards the end of 2019. We managed to link 165 VSLAs to ZANACO by March 2022. This happened after the RUFEP supported Project on CBFIs Linkages had already closed”, he said.
Through Preferred Bankers ZANACO engaged with the groups directly at Minga Mission Hospital and in Petauke rural to facilitate opening of Village Banking Accounts.
Speaking during field visits in Petauke rural, ZANACO Petauke Branch Preferred Banker, Mr. Jolly Bima said he had been assisting Savings Groups and communities in Petauke and Nyimba Districts to open Village Bank accounts with ZANACO.
“ZANACO’sVillage Bank Product has no bank charges. Savings Groups just require a registration certificate, Group Constitution, Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN) from the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), a minimum of ZMW100.00 and 2 to 10 signatories to open an account”, he said.
Following a partnership agreement between SOS and ZANACO, RUFEP signed a grant agreement with SOS Children’s Village Trust in October, 2020 to implement a Project entitled ‘Promoting Village Own Savings Associations’.
SOS Children’s Village Zambia Trust is one of RUFEP’s partners under the CBFIs Linkages Window promoting Savings Group Linkages with ZANACO in Eastern and Southern Provinces of Zambia.
While the Project managed to link 1,759 VSLA group members to ZANACO against the target of 1,500 by March 2022, implementation of the project was delayed in 2021, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In Eastern Province, SOS had linked 644 VSLA Group members to ZANACO in Chipata and Chadiza Districts by the end of March 2022.
Speaking during field visits by the RUFEP Team in March 2022, SOS Family Strengthening Coordinator, Mr. Howard Mulenga disclosed that 19 Groups were linked to ZANACO in the two districts.
Mr. Mulenga said in Chadiza, 10 VSLA Groups were linked with 4 remaining while in Chipata, 9 Groups were linked out of 25 adding that the remaining groups needed further strengthening and had challenges to get their TPINs before they are linked.
“Among the challenges we faced in 2021 was the COVID-19 Pandemic and the August 2021 General Elections which were disruptive for us to mobilize and build capacity for Savings Groups before linking them to ZANACO”, he said
ZANACO Chipata Branch and Regional Manager Mr. Mabvuto Ndhlovu was happy that SOS Children’s Village Trust partnered with ZANACO to promote linkages of savings groups in Eastern Province.
Mr. Ndhlovu said the response was overwhelming from rural communities who have embraced the Village Bank Product for ZANACO.
In Central Province’s Mkushi rural in Luano District, Zambia Rainbow Development Foundation (ZRDF) with support from RUFEP has been building capacity of Savings Groups and linking the groups to ZANACO.
Using the Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) model, ZRDF had built capacity of 296 SILC Groups and linked 52 SILC Groups to ZANACO by the end of March 2022.
ZRDF Executive Director Mr. Brandy Mungaila said the interventions on the SILC Group linkages supported by RUFEP was successful with huge impact on the ground.
Savings Groups members linked to formal financial institutions such as ZANACO are happy that their money is now safe with the bank.
While the box is still in use, it is now a storage for group records. It has remained a reminder of the past when Treasurers never used to have a peace of mind in their homes as custodians of Group Savings.
Rising Fountains Development Programme (RFDP) is targeting to reach 3,000 beneficiaries of the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) in the North-Western Province of Zambia with support from RUFEP.
RFDP has taken the challenge to promote Savings Groups in North-Western as the province has the lowest number of Community Based Financial Institutions (CBFIs) or Savings Groups in Zambia, due to the limited number of Savings Group Promoters.
According to SaveNet data, North-Western had less than 10,000 Savings Group members by 2019 as compared to other provinces in Zambia.
Supported by RUFEP under the Agency and Mobile Banking Window of the Innovation and Outreach Facility (IOF), RFDP is implementing a project called Sustainable Financial Inclusion and Linkages Project in North-Western Province aimed to form and link VSLAs to Madison Finance.
Speaking when a RUFEP Team went on a monitoring field visit in North-Western Province and to meet the VSLAs groups formed, Project Manager, Maxwell Kakwisa thanked RUFEP for supporting RFDP to undertake the Sustainable Financial Inclusion and Linkages project in North-Western Province.
Mr. Kakwisa said RFDP partnered with Madison Finance to link 125 VSLAs to the Financial Service Provider by the end of the Project.
“We are working in Solwezi, Kalumbila and Mushindamo targeting to reach 3000 beneficiaries by encouraging them to form savings groups to be linked to Madison Finance. We make sure all individual members have mobile money accounts so that they are also financially linked as individuals”, he said.
RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said the field visits were conducted to monitor progress by implementing partners and to physically assess progress on the ground.
Mr. Mbulo said the partnership with was not new as RUFEP had supported a previous project by the implementing partner in Lundazi, Eastern Province under the Savings Group Linkages Window One.
He said RUFEP was hopeful that Rising Fountains Development Programme would meet the set targets before the end of the project by April 2022.
The team later met with Savings Groups under Chief Mumena’s area in Kalumbila district who gathered at the chief’s palace to attend a training on financial inclusion and linkages organized by Rising Fountain Development Program.
Mr. Kakumba Shenende is a smallholder farmer in Chief Mumena’s area in Kalumbila district of Northwestern Province and a member Altar Savings Group.As beneficiary, Mr. Shenende disclosed that Savings Groups have helped smallholder farmers like him not to be dependent on the Farmers Input Supply Programme (FISP) by the government.
“I grow various crops and keep livestock. I’m productive throughout the year. Savings groups have helped me to have access to finances all the time for my farming inputs other than just depending on government programs like FISP. The fact is that FISP inputs cannot fully sustain your farming but the money from savings groups is able to buy extra inputs to supplement FISP”, he narrated.
The Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) has partnered with its affiliate church health institutions to promote financial health of rural communities through savings in Mpongwe District in the Copperbelt.
CHAZ has been promoting Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) through its affiliate church health institutions in Mpongwe District, Copperbelt Province and in Petauke District in Eastern Province’s with support from the Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP).
Since 2016, CHAZ has been working with RUFEP to build capacity of VSLAs in Petauke District in Eastern Province with support from RUFEP under the Community Based Financial Institutions Linkages Window.
In Mpongwe District, CHAZ is working with St. Theresa and Mpongwe Mission Hospitals of the Catholic Church to promote financial health of rural communities through village savings and loan associations. This has uplifted the livelihoods of the rural people who are mostly vulnerable and lack of access to basic health care and financial services.
With support from RUFEP under the Agency and Mobile Banking Window of the Innovation and Outreach Facility, CHAZ is implementing a project dubbed Community Based Microfinance Mobile Banking Project through St. Theresa Mission Hospital in Mpongwe rural.
Apart from facilitating linkages with formal financial institutions, the Community Based Microfinance Mobile Banking Project promotes digitization of VSLAs transactions using mobile banking.
On the 21st September, 2021, a RUFEP delegation went on a monitoring field visit to assess progress by CHAZ on the Project. The first point of call was St. Theresa Mission Hospital in Mpongwe District.
Sr. Veronica Bwalya is the Deputy Administrator for St. Theresa Mission Hospital. Sr. Bwalya briefed the RUFEP team on progress made by her health institution on the CHAZ and RUFEP supported project in Mpongwe district.
She said Field Officers and Agents were trained to coach the Savings Group members on business management and income generating activities (IGA) adding that a number of them opened bank accounts thereafter.
“Members of Saving Groups including those living with HIV/AIDS who never ran any business are now saving and borrowing from their respective savings groups to engage in income generating activities”, she said.
She thanked RUFEP for the initiative to digitize savings groups and linking them to ZANACO, which has contributed in bringing financial services closer to the people through the Zanaco Express Agents recruited under the project.
Project Micro-Finance and Mobile Banking Supervisor Maybin Silavwe said Savings Groups have empowered vulnerable people to be self-reliant who were under the care of health institutions as they have their own stable incomes now.
Mr. Silavwe disclosed that Zanaco Express Agents were recruited from within Savings Group members and are providing financial services within the communities.
From St. Theresa Mission Hospital, the RUFEP delegation proceeded to meet Kucetekela Village Banking Group to witness how the groups have digitized their transactions using mobile phones.
The RUFEP team also visited the Baptist Church’s Mpongwe Mission Hospital another health institution member of CHAZ involved in the promotion of village banking in the district.
Hospital Administrator Rose Munkombwe thanked CHAZ, Zanaco and RUFEP for promoting savings group linkages with banks and digital savings through mobile banking.
RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said RUFEP aims to increase access to and use of sustainable financial services by rural people.
Mr. Mbulo added that sustainability entails that innovations supported by RUFEP through partners such as CHAZ and its affiliate members should continue beyond RUFEP support.
The team proceeded to meet saving groups that were attending a business and financial training in preparation for migration from cash-based transactions to digital savings in the next cycle.
RUFEP was happy to witness commitment by savings group members to better their livelihoods through savings and their willingness to adopt mobile banking as a safe and convenient way of promoting cashless transactions in the wake of COVID-19.
Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) has linked thirty rural Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to the Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco) in Kapiri Mposhi District of Central province.
Jesus Cares (JCM) is implementing a project named Financial Inclusion for Self Help Groups (SHGs) with support from the Rural Finance Expansion Program (RUFEP) under the Innovation and Outreach Facility (IOF) matching grants.
Supported by RUFEP under the Community Based Financial Institutions (CBFIs) Linkages Window of the IOF, the project aims to link the Self-Help Groups in the area to formal financial institutions and to promote use of mobile money services in their saving activities.
On the 20th September 2021, RUFEP visited the Self-Help Groups supported by Jesus Cares Ministries in Kapiri Mposhi rural to monitor progress by the implementing partner. Before visiting the groups, the RUFEP team first made a stopover at the Jesus Cares Ministries’ Headquarters in Kabwe where the implementing partner briefed RUFEP on the progress made by the Project.
Project Manager Mrs. Mwiche Chishimba said the project targeted to link 203 SHGs to formal financial institutions in Kapiri Mposhi and Kabwe in Central Province and in Katete and Chipata in Eastern province.
Mrs. Chishimba disclosed that JCM trained the groups on business management and income generating activities and convinced them on the benefits of being linked with formal financial institutions.
“It was a challenge to convince the groups to start saving in a bank due to lack of understanding but after training them for about three months they appreciated the benefits of saving money in a bank account”, she said.
After the briefing, RUFEP and JCM team traveled to Kapiri Mposhi where meetings were held with Thandizo and Mulungushi Self Help Groups in Katuba and Mulungushi villages of St Pauls’ area.
Thandizo Self Help Group members testified that the linkage with Zanaco has made their saving easy as their money is now deposited at the bank for safe keeping instead of keeping it in homes.
Chairlady for the Group Beatrice Lumambwe thanked RUFEP and Jesus Cares Ministries for supporting rural Self-Help Groups and promoting linkages with financial service providers.
Katuba Headman Gilbert Lwengele said promoting Savings Groups such as Self-Help Groups was changing livelihoods of rural people in Katuba. Headman Lwengele added that this has also brought unity among women who are now doing great things to empower themselves and their households.
Jesus Cares Ministries encouraged the group members to continue working hard in their business and to continue using the knowledge they have acquired even after the RUFEP project ends.
And Mulungushi Self Help Group members linked to FINCA shared with the RUFEP team how their livelihoods have been transformed through Self Help Groups.
Mrs. Charity Mulubwa is the Project Officer for Jesus Cares Ministry. She disclosed that the project has supported a total of Fifty-Seven (57) Groups out of which thirty-four (34) were rural groups. She added that out of the 34 rural groups, 30 were linked with Zanaco.
RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo encouraged Jesus Cares Ministries to continue promoting linkages for rural self hep groups to formal financial service providers to expand rural financial inclusion.
Meanwhile, many young people are now beginning to reap the benefits of belonging to savings groups. Bollen Nganuka a Grade Twelve School leaver and member of Mulungushi Self-Help Group disclosed that proceeds from farming have helped him to raise his initial capital for saving with his Group. Bollen now plans to go to college to further his education.
Another inspiring story is that of Clere Njobesha who had failed to get her grade twelve results as she was owing her former secondary school about Four thousand kwacha. After joining Mulungushi Self Help Group, she got a loan and used it to start business activities which saw her clearing the arrears at the school. After getting her results, Clere has applied for enrolment to start her nursing studies.
RUFEP is happy that the youth have taken interest to participate in Self Help Groups in Kapiri Mposhi rural to empower themselves. Further, youths were encouraged to join saving groups such as Self-Help Groups to unlock their potential and support themselves instead of depending on parents and guardians.
National financial inclusion in Zambia has increased from 59.3% in 2015 (Finscope, 2015) to 69.4% by 2020. This is according to the FINSCOPE 2020 topline findings released by December, 2020.
Rural financial Inclusion also increased from 50% in 2015 (Finscope 2015) to 56.9% by 2020 according to the FINSCOPE 2020 Survey findings.
According to the Finscope (2020) Survey findings, the increase or growth is mainly attributed to increased uptake of mobile money which registered an increased from 14% in 2015 to 58.5% by 2020.
The Topline findings were released at the Finscope (2020) Survey Dissemination Workshop held on the 17th December, 2020 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Lusaka organized by Bank of Zambia (BoZ).
Presenting the findings, BoZ’s Financial Sector Development Assistant Director Brenda Mwanza (BoZ) highlighted that informal financial inclusion declined from 37.9% in 2015 to 32.3% by 2020 as more adults were using formal financial inclusion.
“On gender, while the female population increased to 52.6% from 50% in 2015 and the male population declined to 47.4% from 49% in 2015, males are more financially included (71.8%) as compared to females at 67.9% by 2020”, Ms. Mwanza highlighted.
She added that formal financial inclusion was in the age group between 26-35 years (69.3%) and lowest in the age group of 66 years and above.
Financial Health is the ability of individuals to use financial services to manage daily needs, protect themselves from shocks and help them achieve their main goals.
The FINSCOPE 2020 Topline Findings included baseline findings on financial health and literacy which were presented by Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ)’s Director Analytics, Mr. Floyd Mwansa.
The survey findings showed that only 13.6% of the adult population was financially healthy.
“Adults in urban areas were found to be more financially healthy at 15.8 % than rural counterparts (11.7%). Males were more financially healthy 14.2% compared to females at 13.1%.” Mr. Mwansa disclosed.
Financial literacy refers to awareness and knowledge of key financial concepts required for managing personal finances. The survey findings indicate that the urban population had high financial literacy (31.9%) than the rural population(16.2%).
Further males were more financially literate than the females while the level of financial literacy increases with education levels.
Speaking during a Panel Discussion, RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said more sensitizations were needed to convince rural people on the reality of mobile money to increase uptake.
Mr. Mbulo said RUFEP was working with implementing partners such as World Vision, Atlas MARA, FINCA, Kasama Christian Community Care (KCCC) to promote digitization of Savings Groups and uptake of mobile money.
He said digitizing Savings Groups through use of mobile money is much safer as Treasurers do not need a box to put money but use their mobile phones to save which is much efficient.
“To increase mobile money uptake, rural people need sustainable access to power to charge their mobile phones. RUFEP is also working with solar energy providers to provide access to power and to promote of mobile money-based payments.
FSDZ Chief Executive Officer Betty Wilkinson said digitization of savings groups is much safer by promoting cashless transactions as touching money is the biggest risk in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
She said FSDZ was working with Chiefs to share information on COVID-19 and sensitizing communities on health requirements such as washing their hands through various media platforms.
“FSDZ conducted a survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on households in Zambia. The survey revealed that families have been negatively affected by the pandemic and those who borrowed were failing to pay back loans. People are losing jobs and business and are selling their assets to cope with the failing economic situation due to COVID-19”, Ms. Wilkinson disclosed during the Panel Discussion.
And German Savings Bank Foundation for International Cooperation Representative Reinhold Hörnle said while the findings of the FINSCOPE 2020 were critical, there was need to increase rural financial inclusion.
Mr. Hörnle said there was need to harmonize the level of effort by all stakeholders as more needs to be done to increase financial inclusion.
The National Financial Inclusion Strategy (2017-2022) targets to increase rural financial inclusion to 75% and national financial inclusion to 80% by 2022.