The following post was written by the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (KUSCCO) Ltd., World Council of Credit Unions direct member association in Kenya, and originally appeared in the January 2023 edition of KUSCCO's SACCO Star magazine. Kwara, a Kenyan fintech digitizing credit unions, signed an exclusive digital solutions distribution agreement with KUSCCO in January and is also acquiring KUSCCO's subsidiary IRNET, a software company and provider for SACCOs.
The SACCO sector worldwide has grown its membership by 13% annually in the last three years. Kwara’s clients, however, have grown their membership base by over 70% annually in the period from September 2020 to September 2022. In this article, we take a closer look at what Kwara is doing that has resulted in this acceleration of growth compared to the averages.
First, we focus on the Kwara core banking system. So far, more than 125 SACCOs have transitioned or migrated to Kwara’s Core Banking system. Several staff members have shared that “Kwara's core banking system is fast, has no downtime and overall has made it much easier for our SACCO to operate”, as well as stating, “What has made Kwara truly stand out is the fast, reliable and high-quality support. This support is the best in the market!”
Notably, Kwara shows full transparency on the 99.99% uptime enjoyed by Kwara clients. Besides industry-leading availability and world class support, the Kwara product has also focused heavily on automation, security and compliance.
With an automated accounting module and full SASRA (Kenya SACCO Societies Regulatory Authority) reporting compliance, we have spoken to several SACCOs who have succeeded in being able to comply with increasing compliance requirements and even been able to secure licensing either as Non-WDT (non-withdrawable deposit-taking) or as DT (deposit-taking) SACCOs, as a result of upgrading to Kwara. They note that reporting used to take up a major portion of their staff resources in the past, but that they are able to now focus on member support and growth instead.
In addition, Kwara is a fully certified data controller and data processor, and complies with Kenya’s Data Protection Act, which is an important factor for SACCOs who join a cloud-based platform for the first time. This has all led Kwara’s customers to (a) fully serve their members at all times, (b) access free and fast support immediately when needed and (c) spend less time on manually reconciling and creating reports for compliance, which in turn has led staff to focus more on the member. The fact that multiple SACCO members say that Kwara has really improved their SACCO services and speed may be a good indicator of why Kwara’s clients are seeing such steep membership growth.
Second, we spoke with users of Kwara’s mobile channels. Members that can access the Kwara App and USSD state that the mobile banking experience is “Quite fast, very user friendly and easy to understand”, and that downloading statements, applying for mobile loans, depositing money and seeing their balances has become “Fast, you get the information within a fraction of a second. Can recommend every SACCO to use the app. It's so good.”
Kwara’s focus on the member has led many members to refer their SACCO to their friends. In addition, Kwara has made it easy to join a SACCO for the first time. This is used widely by SACCO staff who note that through the Kwara App, it has become easier to recruit members. Where they previously needed to go around with paper forms, which few people liked to fill out, they can now simply direct prospective members to the Kwara App, where they can find the SACCO. After applying via the Kwara App, where all the necessary forms and information can be filled out, SACCO members get approved via Kwara’s core banking system and can start saving right away.
But Kwara has not only spent resources on the mobile banking application. They have also launched a USSD application that allows members to view their balances, apply for instant loans and easily deposit money and repay loans. This also allows members that do not have access to smartphones or a strong internet connection to access SACCO services from their duka (small retail shop), home or office. A user says: “The idea is superb. I like the instant loans, it is the only thing that helps the ordinary man here, especially now when the economy is poor.”
Last, we note that the interactions with SACCO staff and members show a deep appreciation for the Kwara team. Whether equipped with a Kwara Champion T-shirt, a Kwara bottle or writing with a Kwara pen, many people who have interacted with Kwara say that the friendliness of staff and true care for their financial success has made them believe that Kwara has their best interest at heart.
While the company still has many goals with and for the sector, it is undeniable that through Kwara, SACCO staff have been able to focus more of their time on serving and growing the membership base and that members of Kwara’s clients have been able to easily access their SACCO services, wherever they are.