AirSave: Is this Ugandan Fintech Startup the Solution to Africa’s Unbanked Millions?

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Last evening, the Kampala Fintech meetup took place at the Innovation village in Ntinda – a Kampala suburb.

Over 5 entrepreneurs made presentations about the fintech landscape in Uganda and the entire world. These included Moses Mugisha (Pulida Uganda), Emmanuel Chagara (Milima Technologies), Henry Ddamulira (Airsave Uganda), Maxime Dieudonné (Safe Boda), and many more!

Airsave had the most compelling story of the day. Airsave is a financial technology (FinTech) company that provides a secure digital financial technological solutions and Financial literacy programs to community SACCO’s, mobile phone users and schools. The startup is partnering with Ecobank Ltd and Advisor insights INC - a U.S based Company.

The services provided allows mobile phone users using Airtel money or MTN mobile money to register DIGITALLY to a SACCO on the platform and begin to save, borrow money, earn interest and earn commissions using a mobile phone as a solution towards eradication of poverty in communities.

In his presentation, Henry Ddamulira, the CEO of Airsave, estimated the number of unbanked Africans at 600 million. Their aim is to work with everyone – whether in the urban or rural setting. Airsave allows one to save from as low as UGx. 5,000 ($1.5). Airsave’s goal is financial inclusion for everyone – they want to ensure that they work with everyone.

Airsave wants to replace the traditional saving methods while working hand in hand with SACCOs and banks. It allows one to lock up their savings until they hit their target. This allows one to save for something in particular – say a motorcycle – and they are only allowed to withdraw the money after it hits that target.

According to Airsave’s website, a study of 1,500 poor people in Uganda showed that 99 percent of respondents Failed to reach their savings goals when using informal methods, either because the money was stolen or lost, or because they were too tempted to spend the money when it was stored as cash in their home. And it is estimated that 3 out of 4 adults in developing and middle income countries don’t have bank accounts.

In his words, Ddamulira says, “Airsave is a secure digital platform that serves the unbanked using a mobile phone in partnership with SACCOs and Banks. Our research indicates that over 90% of Africans are unbanked. This means they own no bank accounts and therefore using informal saving methods like Wooden Boxes. The problem with this is that Banks cannot know their financial history in order to offer them financial benefits like loans. Airsave platform enables unbanked SACCO members to create saving accounts and lock down their savings until they reach their goal.”

Airsave has so far managed to secure an undisclosed amount of funding from the World Bank matching grant through the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda. This has enabled them run a pilot. They came in 2nd place last year at the Africa Startup Cup and also represented Uganda at the World Startup Cup where they came in at 4th place. Airsave team is comprised of 5 members.

Other fintech startups that were represented at the meetup, which was attended by roughly 30 entrepreneurs, included Yoza Pay, Xente, Yodime, Borrocracy, Swap to Pay, Pulida, Milima Technologies, Laboremus Uganda etc.

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