Safe and Smart Savings Products for Vulnerable Adolescent Girls in Kenya & Uganda
This case study details the unique partnership between Population Council, a research-focused NGO with expertise in adolescent girls programming, and MicroSave, a consulting firm with expertise in product development for low income clients, to develop and deliver critical financial services to adolescent girls by partnering with four financial institutions – two in Kenya and two in Uganda. At the start of this project there were no formal, accessible savings products for girls that existed in East Africa, increasing their risk and vulnerability. Lessons learned from two different projects in Kenya led to the decision to engage in the development of savings accounts for girls. Key findings from initial market research conducted among target groups in both Kenya and Uganda were that 1) girls had money; 2) if an appropriately designed savings account was available, girls would save their money in them; and 3) girls wanted health and social activities alongside the opportunity to save. In addition, research showed that girls wanted savings products for them that were easy to access and be confidential – that is, they must be able to operate it independently of their parents. A product concept for an individual savings account was developed, in which co-signers were used to address the legal constraints of minors not being able to hold individual accounts and girls groups were introduced in order to provide the girls with access to the ‘Safe Spaces’ model of programming and build their social networks. Although none of the existing child accounts on the market were profitable in the traditional sense, financial institutions (FIs) engaged these girls, their families, and their wider communities, which represent a large future customer base. Also, if delivered correctly, this would improve the FI’s image in the community they are serving. As of October 2012, the pilot was completed and successfully rolled-out in Kenya and Uganda to over 8,000 girls. Expansion of the safe spaces model into Zambia is underway and will be piloted towards the end of 2012.