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Kenya has the highest gross domestic product in East Africa, but poverty is still widespread, especially in rural areas. 36 percent of the 50 million Kenyans are affected by poverty. One of the most difficult challenges in the coming years will be growing income inequality and high youth unemployment (26.2 percent in 2018). In addition, Kenya is home to around 500,000 refugees from neighboring countries.Commercial banks have seen declining profits and increasing sector consolidation in recent years. The microfinance sector consists of savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs). Recently introduced interest rate controls have made the lending business unattractive for banks and microfinance institutions, and borrowing for the smallest, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) has been made more difficult.A special focus in the Kenyan financial market is on digital financial services. Over 80 percent of the adult population have access to at least one financial product. However, this high level of financial inclusion is not achieved via traditional bank accounts, but via mobile accounts, which can be opened and managed using a simple cell phone. However, these "Mobile Money" accounts are not in the regulated financial sector, but are managed by mobile phone providers.
The vision of Sparkassenstiftung for International Cooperation in Kenya is to work with SACCOs and MFIs through our partner organisations Association of Microfinance Institutions in Kenya (AMFI-K) and the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) to improve livelihoods by sustainably promoting financial inclusion. This is achieved through capacity building programs for both SACCOs and their members as well as microfinance institutions and their clients in areas such as governance, management, strategy development, technology, green finance and financial education among others. Sparkassenstiftung seeks to build the capacity of partner organizations and their member institutions to become self-sustainable and professional organizations, thus assisting them to enhance economic opportunities for the less privileged – the target market for SACCO service providers. Mostly less privileged people operate businesses that can be classified as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) – a category in which Sparkassenstiftung has a keen interest to build capacity and grow them into profitable self-sustaining units hence the partnerships because the performance of the MSMEs directly affects financial institutions business performance.
In addition to financial education and capacity development, Sparkassenstiftung for International Cooperation in Kenya is also working, together with its partners, on rural development through institutional strengthening. We offer consultancy services in various fields ranging from product development to strategy and management consulting. Working together with apex organizations in the Kenyan microfinance and SACCO sectors allows us to contribute to sustainability within the sector and on institutional levels. Thus, contributing to the overall objective of making our partners and their members financially sustainable.
A special focus for our project activities in Kenya is digital finance. Together with ACCOSCA, the implementation of a Core Banking Software is planned for improving the efficiency and quality of SACCO services. Additionally, we want to raise awareness among mobile money clients for financial education.