14 years ago, after uncountable unsuccessful attempts at securing a job, I started running a small secretarial business in Nabbingo. In our first month of existence, the business had saved only 60,000/=. Everyday after work, I would place the day’s sales on top of the fridge in the home where I used to stay in Budo.
Although this was only enough for our rent then, I was overjoyed because I had never practically been paid beyond 50,000/= as wages before. I remember my brother’s words of encouragement, “That’s just a beginning. If handled well, the fridge wont be enough.” And today, what was a small secretarial bureau with one computer has grown into an Internet Cafe with three branches and more services.
In the second month, some days proved really bad, I would go back home without a coin with nothing to save on our fridge bank. On the good days, I would close business with a smile, but then I would worry about the temptation of passing by rolex and roasted chicken stalls. With the hope that tomorrow would be another brighter day, I would stop by the stalls and buy myself a roll of rolex and chicken thighs.
Then, like fate would have it, the day after that would be really bad. This “good day – bad day” sequence continued until the day our 3 months ended and I didn’t have enough for next month’s rent. That is when I learnt that to save is not just a must but an obligation.
But despite all these lessons, the culture to save is not one that is easy to develop. Even with all life’s lessons from those before us, many of us look at saving as a burden and not a solution. It is easy to advise one to open up a bank account but is it a solution?
What Uganda’s Banking Statistics Show
According to 2019 statistics, Uganda currently has over 700 bank branches spread across the country serving Uganda’s adult population of around 20 million. Of these, three quarters are rural residents as opposed to the around 5 million in urban areas.
A 2018 report by FSD Uganda indicated that only 9 percent of Uganda’s adult population had bank accounts although 11% had used banking services. This is an indication that much as there is a lot of praise for banking, the impact and ease of use is still below what is needed.
Baking vs. Mobile Money
Mobile Money on the other hand seems to have penetrated every corner of Uganda. UCC’s and Bank of Uganda’s statistics show that by 2020, there were over 30 million registered mobile money users. This can be attributed to its ease of use and dependability.
When a mobile money user has a problem with their account, the solution is either a call away or a manageable distance to a service center. This makes Mobile Money the way to go. Banks therefore have an obligation to research and innovate ways of doing business better.
To the powers and innovators that be at MTN, here is my wish. Create a way in which I am able to deposit money on my Mobile Money account but can fix a date on which day I can withdraw. I long for a way where I can continuously deposit money on my mobile money account say for 6 months but can only withdraw on a pre-defined date. I beg that in this method, I still have the rights to check on my balance but cannot withdraw until the date that I personally chose, say 1 month, 6 months, a year or so.
This, I believe will help many in the informal sector to be able to save while lowering the risk of spending distractions during our day to day work. It will also help those who lose their money to illegal withdrawals by thieves or even by those around us. This could help a person from as far as Kidepo whose hopes of opening a bank account are almost nil.
If for example, I made a resolution to deposit 10K a day on my phone every day of the year, I will have 3,650,000/=. This, truth be told, is only possible if I don’t get the temptation to withdraw something for airtime or a snack by the road side. Therefore, I request MTN to look for a way of enabling us in the informal sector to save on our mobile money accounts without the temptation to spend within a specified period.
Stephen Dumba is the co-ordinator Central Region ICT Teachers Association of Uganda and Director E-zone School of Computing. Besides teaching, he is a veteran Computer Repair Technician, a Web Designer and a regular speaker at tech events and teachers’ workshops.
+256 772 111 223 / +256 752 111 223 / [email protected]