SaveAct and the European Union join hands in a 3-year empowerment initiative

SaveAct has officially launched its Masongeni, sandise ingeniso (saving together, growing together) project. The close to €840,000 (R12,6 million) EU-funded project seeks to support the development of micro-credit savings schemes as a means to empower particularly women in rural communities. The project will operate in three provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Free State, and is expected to reach over 18,000 new savings and credit group members over three years.

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Dr Arno Schaefer of the EU Delegation

Speaking at the launch the EU's head of operations in South Africa, Dr Arno Schaefer, said the EU Delegation is “delighted to be involved in this exciting project which forms part of broader EU support aimed at helping South Africa achieve its key developmental objectives."

SaveAct Programme Coordiniator (Eastern Cape) Nolufefe Nonjeke-Dlanjwa noted that the programme had enabled parents to sleep better at night, knowing their families had a chance to pursue a life of dignity rather than one prescribed entirely by the “harsh realities” of poverty.

Providing testimony of the success of the SaveAct initiative, beneficiary Thandi Mbhele from Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal, explained that her first savings group was followed by two others geared towards specific financial goals such as school fees and household needs. Able to access affordable loans through the group, Mrs Mbhele was able to set up a small enterprise selling chickens and goats. One of her children is now attending university. "Before SaveAct, we were using loan sharks at a minimum borrowing rate of 30%. In our savings groups, we get 10%, which allows us to reach our goals,” she said.

Lefipha Sekhosana from Matatiele echoed this experience. Unemployed at the time, he joined a group in 2013 because he started to notice the benefits arising for the women who were members. "I thought it was only for women, but when we started to see the results, we also joined," he said. "Unemployed men soon realised it was not a handout, but our own savings were generating income". Mr Sekhosana is now able to operate a small poultry farming business and maintain a more stable household income.
“I don’t have many words,” he said, but life has changed a lot.”

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Savings group members Lefipha Sekhosana (left) and Thandi Mbhele attended the launch in Johannesburg. They are seen here with SaveAct's Eastern Cape Coordinator Nolufefe Nonjeke-Dlanjwa (centre).

SaveAct Executive Director Anton Krone said since its establishment 10 years ago, SaveAct has facilitated the establishment of 2,200 savings and credit groups, with savings across those groups in excess of R130 million. The success of the model is derived in part from the fact the groups are community-owned and led. Furthermore, the model is highly transparent, giving control over the finances and decisions taken by the group to no single individual. Implementation of the model is conducted through SaveAct field staff and partner organisations such as the Ubunye Foundation in the area of Grahamstown.

With the help of Positive Planet, financial education has been embedded in the model, to improve financial literacy. According to Krone, the model also offers enterprise development to members, with particular emphasis on enterprise focus groups, thereby contributing to sustainable livelihoods. More recently, SaveAct has been investigating the introduction of digital support systems and is working closely with ABSA bank to possibly introduce group accounts and opportunities for long-term savings.

- 28 October 2015

For more information, please contact: Anton@saveact.org.za

To view the SaveAct presentation, click here.