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Cultural norms hold women from leadership positions in SACCOs, study



By Macharia Stephen

Social and cultural norms, bias, hold back women from advocating for leadership positions and resources, a new global survey has revealed.

The survey, conducted by the Global Women Leadership Network (GWLN), revealed that globally, women occupy far fewer leadership positions than men in Credit Unions, locally referred to as Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOs).

Africa registered a moderate performance in comparison to other regions. Women on the continent hold 24 per cent of CEO positions in SACCOs while 33 per cent serve as board members.

Latin America and the Caribbean registered the lowest representation, with 23 per cent and 10 per cent representation in board member positions in the two regions respectively.

On the other hand, Europe and North America registered the highest representation, with 60 per cent and 40 per cent in CEO positions.

The study, the first of its kind, seeks to offer recommendations to SACCOs on how to increase access to leadership roles in Credit Unions and Financial Cooperatives worldwide.

“Our GWLN members tell us that social norms are the primary reasons for this discrepancy. They also cited several reasons for what holds them back in accessing leadership positions,” GWLN said in the report.

Lack of confidence to advocate themselves was cited as the major reason for holding back women from leadership with 85 per cent while family responsibilities, lack of adequate training and fewer connections registered over 60 per cent. Gender, age, maternity and socio-economic status represented the highest forms of bias against women at the workplace.

GWLN says there is a need to undertake rigorous succession planning that prepares women for leadership transitions at various levels of the organization.

“Credit Unions should look deeper, beyond top executives, to examine women supervisors, managers and associates who can be cultivated for leadership roles. Involving executives in succession planning strengthens the opportunity to put women on senior leaders’ radar,” GWLN says in the report.

Respondents suggested that SACCOs can foster a culture of professional development by offering growth assignments to women to gain skills and experience. In addition, they suggested that SACCOs should establish robust in-house mentorship programs to complement activities through GWLN. This, they say, should be structured commitments rather than serve as casual get-togethers that lack formalized plans.

The survey also challenged women to build strong networks, and tap into those networks to advance in leadership. Many respondents identified GWLN and Sister Societies as key resources for making contacts, establishing relationships, advancing knowledge, and learning about career opportunities.

In tackling bias, GWLN members said that SACCOs must invest in, promote and celebrate women and other diverse groups to erode centuries-old social scripts about leadership.

“They must take an intersectional approach, which means having leadership that is diverse in terms of gender, race, class, education level, ability and other social categories.”

SACCOs can foster diverse leadership by intentionally setting human resource strategies that specifically prioritize diversity and women’s advancement.

To boost women’s self-esteem, GWLN members suggest that SACCOs can offer services and support to help women improve their self-confidence and self-esteem. 

In Kenya, the SACCO Supervision Report 2020 shows that male members of the Board remained the majority at 81 per cent while the female members of the Board still accounted for a paltry 19 per cent of the total members. On the other hand, the male gender dominates Chief Executive positions at 76.5 per cent with women only accounting for 23.4 per cent.

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How Digital Solutions are Impacting Health Insurance



By Kennedy Ochieng

Health insurance in Kenya has significantly metamorphosed operationally and gone up in leaps and bounds due to technological innovations and solution-oriented approaches towards solving the healthcare problems of its citizenry by insurance providers. It has been posited that the future of healthcare in Kenya lies in digital solutions.

Digital solutions and platforms have enabled customers to connect with healthcare providers in ways they could not do in previous years. Digitization has mitigated the risk of high operational costs borne by insurance companies regarding back-office operations. Manual processes are automated, and this has led to increased efficiency.

One of the notable digital platforms that customers use in Kenya today to access healthcare services is M-TIBA. This platform is available to both retail and private health sectors. Users have reported a better customer experience on mobile platforms that deal with healthcare. Some industry reports indicate that over 37per cent of Kenyans use their mobile phones to access healthcare. This is evidenced by the numerous payments made via M-PESA for NHIF payments and monthly insurance premium finance payments. Customers can access healthcare virtually through virtual cards, replacing physical biometric cards.

Internet penetration in Kenya is about 90 per cent, whereas mobile phone penetration is at 133 per cent, according to the Communications Authority. This proliferation of mobile phones and computing devices creates an opportunity for stakeholders in healthcare to invest heavily in healthcare solutions. The uptake of technology has led to freeing up congested health facilities, and hospitals are able to focus on dealing with critical cases only.

Digital solutions are here to stay in the long run. They not only reduce operational costs and cater to patients’ needs, but they are also a sure way of increasing penetration of healthcare services at large. Patients can participate actively in the healthcare delivery process collaboratively with service providers.

One significant impact of digital solutions on health insurance is the ability to provide personalized healthcare services to customers. With digital platforms, insurance providers can track customers’ health records and provide targeted health interventions based on their individual needs. This not only improves the quality of healthcare services provided but also leads to cost savings for insurance providers by reducing unnecessary medical interventions.

Another advantage of digital solutions in health insurance is the increased transparency in the delivery of healthcare services. Digital platforms allow customers to access real-time information on their insurance coverage, including benefits and costs, making it easier for them to make informed decisions about their health. Additionally, digital solutions provide insurance providers with more accurate data on healthcare utilization patterns, which can be used to develop better healthcare policies and programs.

Digital solutions also offer significant advantages for healthcare providers. With the use of electronic health records, healthcare providers can easily access patient information, resulting in better diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Additionally, digital solutions can help healthcare providers optimize their workflow, leading to improved operational efficiency and increased patient satisfaction.

Finally, digital solutions in health insurance have the potential to reduce healthcare disparities by making healthcare services more accessible to marginalized communities. With the use of mobile health platforms, individuals living in remote or underserved areas can access healthcare services, improving their health outcomes and reducing the burden of disease in their communities.

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Why your business will need digital marketing in 2023



By  Sharon Makiti

Be it a startup or an already established business, creating a cutting-edge product or service is not enough if word about it does not reach the target consumer.

This explains why household companies like Coca-Cola and mega businesses like Safaricom will spend valued sums of their revenues towards promoting, introducing and relaunching their products and services. Some of these companies go to an extent of holding highly publicized and star-studded events to launch new products and services.

In the wake of highly volatile uncertainties bedevilling the current economic environment, most startups which are small and medium-sized businesses may lack budgets for advertisements, threatening their products and services into obscurity.

In this case, investment in digital marketing holds the key, which has proved to be a gem for ventures like AirBnBs, taxi and food apps among others. Digital marketing has transformed and grown these investments from being used by a limited number of people into successful businesses patronized by thousands of consumers.

Digital marketing encompasses various techniques and methods of using digital channels to advertise products and services to target consumers. This includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media marketing like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others, mobile marketing, email marketing and online marketing like pay-per-click adverts.

The channels used for digital marketing are cheaper than any other form of marketing like TV ads and newspapers. The majority require your business to have an account and save for the paid adverts, the rest of the adverts will be shared for free.

Your business will need digital advertising because you need to build trust with your customers. Digital marketing allows you to have real-time, one-on-one, and personalized communication with your customers. Consistency and timely response are the keys to this relationship, you gradually build trust with your target audience.

Additionally, the internet has levelled the ground for marketing, allowing small and medium businesses as well as startups to reach a global audience, unlike when using multinational channels like radios and television stations which are highly-priced.

Compared with other forms of marketing, digital marketing is affordable for upcoming, startups as well as small and medium businesses with thin to no budgets. When you compare the returns received from this form of marketing, it is easier to monitor and measure the success of your marketing.

This may be through the number of views for a YouTube video or the conversion rates. Other platforms like Facebook allow you to know the number of people who have seen your post, unlike when you have placed an advert in a newspaper.

For the survival of any business this year, embracing digital marketing is the way to go.  Other benefits include interacting with audiences of different ages and meeting their expectations, remaining relevant, especially in the current competitive business environment as well as building an easily sustainable brand reputation.

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How Kwara is driving SACCO growth



By Lenin Lumumba

The SACCO sector worldwide has grown their membership by 13 per cent annually in the last three years. Kwara’s clients however have grown their membership base by over 70 per cent annually in the period 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.

Firstly, 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 that “What has made Kwara truly stand out however 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 per cent 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 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 or as DT SACCOs, as a result of upgrading to Kwara. They note that 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 DaProtection 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, 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, 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, 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.

Lastly, 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 an interview with Kwara CEO shows that 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.

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