19 Oct
19Oct

In a bid to enhance community resilience and gender-responsive economic empowerment, the South Sudanese Refugee Association (SSURA) has partnered with Equity Bank in a revolutionary approach to champion financial access through an innovative and easy digital VSLA approach for community empowerment. 

This has been possible with the generous financial backing of Cities Alliance and the Migration Global Programme, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Under the overarching project titled, "Enhancing Community Resilience Through Gender Responsiveness, Economic Empowerment for Psycho-Social Wellbeing of Refugees and Host Communities, and Migrants," this collaboration is changing lives in the West Nile region.

As of October 2023, the project has successfully enrolled over 20 community-based VSLA groups under the Economic Empowerment component. These groups, composed of women, youth, refugees, migrants, and host community members, are witnessing a transformation in their financial and business management skills."

As one of the core to the revolutionization of the VSLA approach, the heart of this transformation is the digital financial literacy training led by experts from Equity Bank. The training, conducted on October 19, 2023, primarily focused on the modern digital banking app known as Eazy Club Online Banking, specially designed to manage group accounts like Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). This technology is revolutionizing group banking, making it more accessible and cost-effective.

Mr. Arthur Sekankya, Equity Bank Uganda Supervisor Digital Banking, explained how the Eazy Club platform has simplified group banking. He noted that in the past, group signatories had to physically travel to the bank for transactions, incurring significant expenses. 

Mr. Sekankya highlighted a scenario where three signatories would collectively spend 60,000 Ugandan Shillings on travel, but with the mobile banking system, the cost could be as low as 500 Ugandan Shillings, and transactions can be approved remotely.

He shared a compelling example: "As a living example, previously, the bank would require the three signatories to physically travel to the bank upon making a transaction hence putting the travels expensive. He further illustrated this by giving an account on a scenario where say three signatories use 20,000 Ugx each for traveling to the bank hence relating to 60,000 Ugx yet if they had used the Mobile banking system, the charge would have been 500 Ugx and done remotely."

Mr. Arthur Sekankya, Equity Bank Uganda Supervisor Digital Banking, explaining - The Digital Online Banking System

Members from seven VSLA groups, including Umoja Savings Group, Gbulangbulanga I VSLA Group, Ugopa Mungu Savings Group, United Sisters VSLA Group, Holy VSLA Group, Smart Urban VSLA Group, and God Knows VSLA Group, attended the training. 

They now have the knowledge and tools to manage group accounts efficiently and access individual banking services via the Equity Online Banking app.

Mrs. Tina Victoria, Chairperson of God Knows VSLA Group in Koboko, shared her success story, emphasizing the profound impact of this initiative. 

She noted that the Economic Empowerment project championed by SSURA has enabled people like her, especially refugees, to access financial assistance from banks. The traditional obstacles of collaterals and guarantors are no longer a hindrance, opening doors for her and many others.

Mrs. Tina Victoria, Chairperson of God Knows VSLA Group Speaking

Mr. Otim Francis, Equity Bank's focal person for the community project, delved into the intricacies of loan management and how these groups can thrive collectively and individually. His guidance reinforces the holistic approach of this project, focusing on not just financial access but financial acumen.

This transformative project, which began on April 1, 2023, and will continue until March 31, 2026, is funded by Cities Alliance through the Swiss Development Agency. Its overarching goal is to equip participants with essential financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills, thereby helping them attain economic stability and an enhanced overall well-being.

Mr. Otim Francis, Equity Bank's focal person for the community project, Speaking to the Group Members

With plans to enroll over 560 VSLA groups in West Nile (Arua, Koboko, and Maracha), the project is well on its way to upholding the Economic Empowerment for Psycho-Social Wellbeing of Refugees and Host Communities, and Migrants. 

The over 55 million Ugandan Shillings disbursed in loans demonstrates the tangible progress these VSLA groups are making, facilitating access to finance and capital for business investments for both host communities and refugees.

This initiative serves as a testament to the power of collaboration, digital innovation, and the indomitable spirit of communities striving for a better future. The SSURA-Equity Bank partnership is indeed a beacon of hope and empowerment, making a significant impact in the lives of those it touches.

One of the standout achievements of this collaborative project is the digitalization of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) through Equity Bank's Eazy Club Online Banking system. 

As of October 19, 2023, SSURA has successfully introduced over 20 VSLA groups to this innovative platform. These groups, composed of women and youth from diverse backgrounds, have gathered under the project's banner, "Enhancing Community Resilience Through Gender Responsiveness, Economic Empowerment for Psycho-Social Wellbeing of Refugees and Host Communities, and Migrants."

BY: Aldo ADOMATI, Communications, ssura-ug.org
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