Convened by:


Tuesday, May 22: Day One

9:00 am - 9:30 am | Welcome Remarks

Sharon D'Onofrio, The SEEP Network | Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, National Bank of Rwanda

9:30 am - 10:45 am | Beyond Savings and Credit: Savings Groups as Catalysts of Social & Economic Change

The short and medium-term benefits of membership in Savings Groups are well-known: access to financial services; greater control over financial and economic assets; investments that result in an enhanced standard of living in the household; stronger social capital that builds confidence and leads to greater empowerment. These significant benefits mostly impact individual members, their household and their groups.

Yet, there is also evidence of members expanding their vision and goals to effect wider socio-economic development and become catalysts for community change, including:

  • Individual members who use their leadership, organizational skills, social and political contacts and perhaps their Savings Groups as springboards to become political leaders themselves or the leaders of social services organizations that seek broader community impact.
  • Individual groups that invest their own resources or acquire external resources to address community issues.
  • SGs that represent multiple communities that take on issues of a more regional nature that go beyond financial services.
  • Apex organizations of SGs that pool and intermediate their own resources to provide financial services to their members.
  • Federations of SGs that engage in advocacy campaigns to bring about socio-economic change.

The session featured leaders from Self-Help Groups and SGs from India and Sub-Saharan Africa. We learned how these individuals and their groups were able to go beyond a narrow, internal-focused agenda to develop a broader vision, a commitment to community change and the capacity to undertake a more complex set of activities.

Monique Diarra, Savings Group Network of Segou, Mali | Hajo Djibo, Savings Group Network of Hamdalaye, Niger | Chrisy Gawanani, CARE Malawi | Puspita Mohanty, SwayamShree SHG Federation | Kalpana Rout, SwayamShree SHG Federation | John Schiller, Independent Consultant Stella Tungaraza, Independent Consultant

4:15 pm - 5:45 pm | Debate: For the Savings Groups sector to achieve scale and quality, donors must exit to allow the private sector and government to take over group formation and ongoing support.

Since the beginning of the Savings Groups movement, not-for-profit facilitators paid from donor funding have promoted adherence to best practice procedures and group rules and respect for the principles of democracy, transparency and autonomy. Their work has produced high quality groups and raised sensitivity to the importance of consumer protection. Donors continue funding innovative practice which helps keep the movement fresh and alive. On the other hand, the amount of donor funding will always be insufficient to meet demand and donors have begun to show waning interest in the sector. Financial service providers (FSPs), technology firms, and social entrepreneurs increasingly recognize Savings Groups as an entry to untapped markets and governments see their potential for meeting national financial inclusion goals and for complementing pro-poor safety net programs. Thus, market forces and the interests of national policy will become the long-run drivers of Savings Groups expansion and sustainability.

This lively debate focused on if the private sector and governments should take over the formation and ongoing support of Savings Groups.

William Derban, Fidelity Bank Ghana | Maureen Kwilasa, CARE USA | Joel Muhumuza, Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Uganda | George Mukasa Mukisa, Norwegian Association of Disabled / Norges Handikapforbund (NAD) | Ruth Orbach, CARE Canada | Andreas Peham, Independent Consultant | Kuria Wanjau, Independent Consultant

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Wednesday, May 23: Day Two

9:30 am - 10:45 am | Scaling Outreach, Social Safety Nets and the Delivery of Public Services: Savings Groups and the Role of Government

In recent years, several governments have recognized the potential of Savings Groups to contribute to national financial inclusion and poverty reduction strategies and, as a result, deepened their engagement in the sector. Current initiatives include: the development of policies related to Savings Groups within national financial inclusion strategies; the integration of Savings Groups within social safety nets; and the delivery of public services through Savings Groups.

This engaging dialogue among national policy makers on the role of government in the Savings Groups sector featured effective strategies to promote and leverage Savings Groups for broader financial inclusion and development objectives.

Goodwin Kodzo Anku, Ministry of Finance, Ghana | Marguerite M. R. Traore Damiba, Ministry of Economy, Finance and Development, Burkina Faso | Hermann Messan, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) | Peter Mwale, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Malawi | Hajat Tatu Mwaruka, Tanzania Social Action Fund | Tiana Ramparany Ramanarivosa, Ministry of Finance and Budget, Madagascar | Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, National Bank of Rwanda

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Debate: Formal financial institutions can and should take responsibility for the formation and ongoing support of Savings Groups.

Savings Groups are good potential clients for financial service providers (FSPs). They represent significant financial assets and millions of individuals who have developed financial literacy and discipline. Closer ties will result in a broader range of financial services for members. FFIs increasingly see Savings Groups members as an untapped market, with digital technology and advances in other tools and processes making communication and linkage with rural populations easier and more cost-effective. Yet many FFIs do not possess the corporate culture to motivate them to understand and adapt products and processes to this vast new market. The lack of a convincing business case has also caused widespread hesitation. Another fear is that financial incentives meant to encourage FSPs to work with groups will result in group ‘capture’ where unsuspecting members will open accounts and take loans before they fully understand the consequences of their choices.

This session featured an engaging debate on FSPs taking responsibility for the formation and ongoing support of Savings Groups.

Sukhwinder Arora, Oxford Policy Management (OPM) | Lauren Hendricks, Grameen Foundation | Ross Nathan, VisionFund Rwanda | Saqib Nazir, Interpay Africa | Candace Nelson, Independent Consultant | Mbonisi Tshuma, World Education Malawi | Dana Redford, Policy Experimentation & Evaluation Platform (PEEP)

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Thursday, May 24: Day Three

11:00 am - 12:30 pm | Consumer Protection, Inclusion and Women's Empowerment: Initiatives of SEEP's Savings-Led Working Group

SEEP's Savings-Led Working Group (SLWG) reviewed the progress on this year's ambitious learning agenda. Working group members shared updates and solicited feedback on three initiatives – the release of the state of practice report on Savings Groups and inclusion, preliminary findings from a multi-country risk assessment of Savings Groups, and a new learning partnership on Savings Groups and women's empowerment. 

Benjamin Allen, Catholic Relief Services | Zainabu Asiimwe, Women for Women International | Katherine Hughes, Nathan Associates | Ashley Wheaton, Savings-Led Working Group

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12:30 pm - 1:00 pm | Reflections on SG2018 and Beyond

Conference participants attended an engaging conversation about our shared opportunities and challenges.

John Schiller, Independent Consultant | Rew-Revealed Kataru, Aga Khan Foundation | Aslihan Kes, International Center for Research on Women | Waringa Kibe, Access to Finance Rwanda



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