Dar es Salaam. Airtel Tanzania and Maendeleo Bank yesterday launched a new service to simplify operations of informal savings and cooperative groups – village community banks (Vicoba).
Known as Timiza Vicoba, the product offers fully automated, low-cost and efficient savings and credit service to customers organised into self-selected groups of five to 50 people.
The group members can access the service through Airtel Money. They will thus be able to register their groups, open a bank account, send their weekly contributions, loan requests and to make repayments from their homes or anywhere they are.
According to Maendeleo Bank managing director Ibrahim Mwangalaba, the product will enable the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange-listed financial entity to extend its services to micro and low-income earners.
“Our approach to reaching these customers is to offer affordable savings and transactional products along with group lending products based on the Grameen Bank methodology, in which each customer in a group guarantees the other group members’ loans,” he said.
The advantage of the service is to inculcate a savings culture and enable customers to apply for and receive loans over the mobile phones. This is a much easier way to access credit than traditional physical, cash-based operations.
The product will also develop formal creditworthiness by beginning to use formal financial services. “We passionately believe that the eventual market for mobile phone-enabled financial services will extend beyond payments, savings and credit. We see insurance, international transaction services, financial education, and even asset management all as services that can eventually be provided over mobile phones, ” he said.