For over 25 years, CARE’s Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) initiative has created opportunities for women to gain financial independence on a global scale. As VSLA groups matured and technology advanced, however, CARE recognized the need to transition the VSLA model from informal financial support to a formal, institutionally recognized financial service.
In 2018, Exygy partnered with CARE International to digitize their VSLA model to provide folks in rural communities with the necessary services to achieve financial independence. Our work began in Tanzania, where together, we developed a unique protocol based on SMS messaging to exchange information with areas without internet access.
“Chomoka started at the lowest possible fidelity: paper prototypes, brought into villages, and put in front of VSLA group members. The team quickly improved Chomoka through community-based tests and iterative product release cycles to address issues and meet users’ needs based on what we heard. In 20 weeks, CARE and Exygy launched the first VSLA app.” — Michael Enslow, Exygy’s Director of Product
We’re proud to share that in 2021, Chomoka has expanded from Tanzania to include four additional countries: Côte d'Ivoire, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, and is currently piloting in Kenya. To date, over 940 VSLA groups have registered, representing 20k savings group members across the continent. As Chomoka scales across cultures, the platform continues to add translation capacity, including five languages in Uganda.
We know that the rapid development in 2021 is just beginning. Outside of CARE’s programs, 15 million people participate in alternative VSLA groups supported by governments and NGOs. Chomoka’s technology has the potential to support these groups, as well.
“One of Exygy’s most important contributions to Chomoka was how they set us up to continue working effectively after our engagement was over. From training us on how to use SCRUM methodologies to finding us the right local tech partner to continue our work, they helped us upskill and build sustainability.” — Karen Vandergaag, Chomoka Product Manager.
Since the spread of COVID-19, Chomoka has been re-purposed to enable VSLAs to operate remotely given social distancing restrictions. CARE has also leveraged Chomoka’s existing marketplace to efficiently make public COVID announcements and disperse pandemic-related information. Through Chomoka, CARE also now offers new services, including e-vouchers, health and GBV support services messaging, information on accessing agricultural inputs and financial products/services, and how and where to access hygiene and essential food items.
In the future, Chomoka will expand from a digitized ledger to playing a more significant role in the relationship between financial institutions and low-income women.
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