Leveraging on technology to spur productivity in SACCOs

Cynthia Wandia, Co-founder and CEO of Kwara.

Advancements in technology have disrupted many sectors of the economy leaving a number of companies to adapt and embrace the digital transformation that come with such disruptions so as to effectively stay afloat in business and offer effective and relevant services to consumers.

Close to two decades ago, banks dominated the financial lending space with people taking days or even months before they could secure loan approvals. The dawn of mobile money in Kenya dictated a massive change in tact and strategy in the banking sector as many small players have today ventured into the scene to offer easy and affordable loans thus essentially eating into a massive share of this resource that the banks had enjoyed for the longest time.

The discourse is the same in the transport sector. The conventional taxi drivers can hardly make a kill due to digitization and the efficient solutions provided by players in the ride and shuttle hailing industry such as Uber, Bolt and SWVL. These players have made public transportation safe, accessible and affordable and that is what the consumer today desires.

This narrative fits the Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations sector. The SACCO movement in the country has been relevant for ages. Kenyans have embraced the SACCO mentality and invested in the same for the longest time. These investments have had significant impacts as they have changed the course of many lives and many communities have been lifted out of poverty.

Today the biggest SACCOs in the country control billions worth of share capital invested. This situation calls for members to seriously consider a digital takeover in their SACCOs so as to work towards realizing the full potential of the sector. Such a move if implemented will help to increase efficiency and entrench financial inclusion in the industry thus accommodating the underbanked and the unbanked especially in rural Kenya who primarily depend on SACCOs for provision of financial services.

A report by Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya opines that SACCOs are one of the primary sources of rural finance. In many rural areas, local SACCOs are the key providers of financial services. Therefore, leveraging on technology as an enabler for the digitization of services in SACCOs will respond to the current specific consumer needs thus this will grow productivity and increase member benefits even in the rural areas.

Internet penetration, connectivity and affordability in Kenya provides a near perfect infrastructure to facilitate the migration of SACCOs from traditional processes to the efficient digital world. Members also need to be sensitized and educated on the benefits of a digital system versus the standard system and its prospects.

Digital operations will herald the convenience of faster transactions in SACCOs, improved services and general members’ satisfaction. Optimizing operations will also guarantee security as most core banking platforms provide secure platforms for transactions hence ensuring the protection of member data and finances.

Most SACCOs that have today gone digital will attest to the enhanced productivity and efficiency of service that they enjoy. They are able to coordinate their processes appropriately thereby breaking the once many administrative hurdles that in the past worked to the detriment of their members.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented the SACCO sector with an opportunity to leverage on technology in order to stay operational during the crisis. Players in the industry must think innovatively and take advantage of the resources that are available to help secure the future of their SACCOs.

The writer is the Co-founder and CEO of Kwara.

The Standard
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