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Banking on Change

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Since 2009, Barclays, CARE International UK and Plan UK have been working together in a unique partnership to tackle financial exclusion by taking a savings-led, rather than credit-led approach to microfinance.

The programme aims to improve the quality of life of the world’s poorest people living on less than US$2 a day. It combines the expertise of each partner to give people in seven countries the opportunity and skills to save and manage their money more effectively and provides access to the basic financial services they need.

The programme has seen great success and global recognition, including a recent visit to the programme in Zambia by Sky News presenter, Samantha Washington. She spent time visiting local savings and loans groups, learning about the difference the groups are making to people’s lives.

On her experience and learnings in Zambia, Samantha says: “Small savings groups are springing up involving people from neighbouring villages.  I went to a regular monthly meeting of one of these groups, sitting amongst the members under a mango tree to keep shelter from the blazing sun. 

Zambians call these groups OSAWE, which stands for Own Savings for Assets and Wealth creation.  In local lingo it means “don’t fall” or “stand firm”.  At these regular meetings, the ten or so members are each expected to make regular contributions.  These are collected into a multiple padlocked metal tin.  From these funds, loans can be granted to anyone in the group, usually to help fund some kind of small enterprise.”

Samantha continues: “It really works much like a typical co-operative.  The group votes to grant the loan, it decides collectively on an interest rate, and all the decisions and flows are money are carefully minuted and signed off.  Because joining the group is by invitation, and the communities are tight, the self-selection results in virtually no theft and less than 1% of the loans default. 

For me watching the Kwacha (Zambian currency) being locked away in the tin, it was a potent reminder of the social utility that banking used to provide.  Hearing the stories of those who are in the savings groups illustrated this most clearly.”

To further share the work of Banking on Change and the importance of the programme, she wrote a blog that has been featured on Sky News online and the Huffington Post; and Sky News shared Samantha’s experience on-air on Friday, 31 October.

Cleopatra Chibamba

While in Zambia, Samantha met Cleopatra Chibamba, 24, at her poultry business. Cleopatra lives in Mukalashi community in the Chibombo district. She has been a member of her Banking on Change youth savings group for around two years. Early on in her involvement in the group, Cleopatra took out a loan to buy her first 50 chickens to start her own poultry business.

To support her in succeeding, she also learned valuable enterprise and financial training, allowing her to set up her own poultry business – selling her chickens to a local boarding school. With a successful enterprise underway, she has also established a small gardening business selling produce to generate additional income.

Married with two children, Cleopatra is using her savings to continue to grow her business and is putting a small amount towards building a house for her family. 

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