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To increase financial inclusion in particular of the rural population in Eastern Africa, the range of services offered by Microfinance institutions (MFIs) and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) which are organized in umbrella organisations which act as Sparkassenstiftung´s project partners in has to expand. For this purpose, it is necessary to develop financial products and services adapted to the needs of rural target groups. Additionally, it is relevant to review the needs and possibilities for the setup of protection funds e.g. a deposit protection fund for microfinance clients and credit rotation funds. Sparkassenstiftung supports our partners in the development of digital financial services and shared services, for example:
Shared IT Services (like server hosting, website development, shared software, and hardware support),
External Auditing of annual reports of SACCOs and MFIs to fulfill the legal requirements,
Human Resource activities (candidate selection and contracting) and
Data Management services.
Sparkassenstiftung in Burundi together with its partner RIM (Réseau des Institutions de Microfinance du Burundi) the umbrella organization of the microfinance institutions in Burundi has identified the development and implementation of shared services as one of their key cooperation areas. Offering shared services to the member MFIs has various advantages for them, in particular the possibility to afford high quality, but often-costly external services that they could otherwise not make use of, by pooling their resources.
Improved business performance with Shared Audit
The most successful shared service implemented in Burundi so far has been the Shared Audit. In 2018, 16 MFIs participated in the first shared audit for which a renowned local audit firm could be engaged that otherwise would be out of the financial scope of the institutions. For the MFIs being audited by a trusted and well-known auditing company has yielded valuable information on their status quo and recommendations on measures for the improvement of their operations. Moreover, it improves their reputation and adds to their credibility in the financial community. At the moment a second shared audit is being organized and offered to the member MFIs.
Shared services to comply with central bank requirements
Another shared service that is currently in development and will be implemented soon is the support of a specialized consultancy firm for the conception of Business Continuity Plans. These are documents outlining systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats such as natural disasters or the disruption of IT structures to a business’s operations. The possession of such plans will enable the MFIs to comply with recent regulations of the Banque de la République du Burundi (the central bank of Burundi), which requires all financial institutions to put in place such provisions. So far, 11 institutions have voiced their interest to take part in this service.
For the future, it is being planned to create more shared services according to the needs of the microfinance sector. A special emphasis will be put on activities that support the MFIs in complying with the regulations of the central bank.
Together we our partner African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) we intend to introduce shared services on Big Data, Data Management Software, Core Banking Software and Shared Branching. Together with the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Kenya (AMFI-K) will plan to introduce digitalization and shared IT services in the microfinance sector.
The term shared services refers to the consolidation and centralization of service processes of an organization. This procedure is particularly suitable for umbrella organizations and their affiliated members. In Rwanda, the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) acts as an apex organization for a large number of microfinance institutions. These, in turn, are very similar in terms of their structure and have almost identical processes in their day-to-day business since they serve the same clientele.
Hence, Sparkassenstiftung in Rwanda supported its partner AMIR to start building a shared IT platform for the MFI sector. The central product of such a platform is certainly a core banking software adapted to the needs of MFIs. Yet, in this context many other aspects were considered like the integration of a data warehouse, e.g. for the creation of management reports or the integration of different services like mobile money, online banking, or the use of ATMs. Above all, hosting and IT support should be carried out from a central location, so that MFIs can focus on their current business and their customers.
Additionally, AMIR developed with the support of Sparkassenstiftung various other shared services to best serve the member MFIs. Probably the largest and most widely used service at present is Shared Audit Service, where AMIR has negotiated a framework contract with an auditing firm. The representation of almost the entire microfinance sector enables AMIR to have greater negotiating power and thus, more favorable individual prices for annual audits of individual MFIs. Most of these price advantages are passed on to the member institutions and a part remains with AMIR in order to cover expenses caused by negotiations and contract drafting. More thant that, AMIR offers shared recruitment services. If individual microfinance institutions do not have the capacity to carry out an assessment center or interviews, AMIR takes over this role for a corresponding fee. In some cases, the microfinance institution wants to ensure transparency in the selection process and therefore engages the umbrella organization AMIR as an independent third party.
Sparkassenstiftung Uganda has strategically supported the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU) and the Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Limited (UCSCU) in the development of strategic and business plan for the Dual Apprenticeship System, Training Academy and Human Resource Review, respectively. The strategic business plan clarifies the implementation modalities, organizational requirements, the curriculum, the training plan, and the financial forecasts while the Human Resource Review was to guide UCSCU in the restructuring of its human resource.
Thus, AMFIU now has a functional and operational business arm known as AMFIU Business Consult (ABC). The business arm is to enhance professionalism in the execution of Microfinance Institution (MFI) activities while providing services at relatively low cost.