The report provides, for the first time, a global mapping of linkage activity between savings groups and formal financial institutions around the world. In total, we were able to identify nearly 90 financial service providers – including banks, microfinance institutions, and mobile network operators – that provide formal financial products to groups across 27 countries. The main findings are:
1) East Africa is leading the way
More than 60 percent of the savings group products offered globally by banks, microfinance institutions (MFIs) or mobile network operators (MNOs) are found in Africa. Furthermore, nearly half of all group savings and credit products available in Africa are found in just three East African countries: Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania
2) Commercial banks have a major role to play
Our research shows that banks and MFIs are playing a more prominent role in the delivery of group financial products: 9 in 10 group products are directly linked to a bank or MFI product of some kind. More importantly, 70 percent are owned by a commercial bank, lending additional credibility to our assertion that there is a strong business case for banks to develop products and services for savings groups
3) Savings are first, but not last
Most of the products available to groups are basic savings accounts that impose zero or minimum account fees and opening balances. Where account fees exist, they are typically offset with value-adding features or services such as SMS notifications, internet banking, ATM cards, free withdrawals, group passbooks, and interest on savings. Interestingly, 40 percent of the banks that offer savings accounts also provide groups with access to credit – suggesting that this is an increasingly important element of the value proposition to both the groups and the bank.