Annual Report 2017 – Bringing Digital Solutions to Tanzania

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PCI partners with tech startup to link women to mobile banking

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Through PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) initiative, we’ve seen firsthand how women, quite literally, hold the key to ending poverty. Each week in Tanzania, lock boxes of cash take center stage as WE groups gather to pool resources and plan brighter futures for their communities and families.
While these padlocked containers provide some security for members who deposit their savings inside, they still don’t offer access to the modern global economy. That’s the challenge that brought PCI and DreamStart Labs (DSL) together.
With support from the Vodafone Americas Foundation, PCI and DSL are designing and testing a smartphone mobile banking application for WE members to use in Tanzania, and eventually, globally. The app—called DreamSave—has the potential to help millions of offline and unbanked members of informal savings groups around the world break the cycle of poverty.
Here’s how it works: Hundreds of transactions once only calculated and recorded by hand in paper ledgers can now be digitized and transferred to a smartphone loaded with the DreamSave app. This digital ledger ensures accurate accounting of WE group transactions, simplifies meetings, automates loan calculations, provides for goal tracking and manages share outs. Most importantly, women who have been invisible to formal financial institutions now have the ability to build a credit history and score. This digital footprint increases their likelihood of securing larger loans to grow their businesses.
“The first time I saw this, I did not believe it was possible. Now, I have realized it is very possible and very simple,” said Nyakauru Shem, a bookkeeper for her WE group who tested a prototype of the app. “This system will enable a group member to access his or her records at home without necessarily having to wait for a group meeting. [She] will also be able to know how far she has reached her personal goals…This will motivate her to save more.”
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In addition to helping women manage their savings and achieve their financial goals, DreamSave also offers a sense of confidence and security that some WE members felt was missing before.
“Before PCI and DSL brought DreamSave, I was personally very afraid of using a smartphone…Now I have gained experience,” said Nyang’oko Nyabalimba, a WE member in the Musoma District of Tanzania. “DreamSave will help keep our records safe, members will know their financial status, and we will be connected to the bank.”
Pima Alphonce, another WE member and bookkeeper, added: “This will ensure our personal safety and the safety of our money.”
A LOOK INSIDE
DreamSave includes innovative elements that address challenges women face in areas where there is low connectivity and low smartphone ownership. For example, the technology:

  • Only requires one savings group member to have a smartphone, while the rest can use feature phones;
  • Works offline and online;
  • Makes it possible for groups to do a full data backup at the end of each meeting, even with no Internet access; and
  • Empowers any member with a feature phone to access group and individual records 24-7.

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