KAMPALA — While most Ugandans describe land as the key to wealth, leaving it idle for years is not a smart idea.
In Uganda, it is not unusual for one to leave their piece of land vacant for years because they do not have funds to develop it.
Even though it appreciates in value over time, the returns may not be commensurate if it had been developed.
To help more Ugandans harness the potential of their land assets, Buladde, a Savings and Credit Co-operative organisation (Sacco) was born in 2016, to help the Buganda Land Board staff to improve their security of tenure, develop their land and improve their way of living through savings and borrowing.
“We discovered that most people did not have money to secure their land, they cannot get money to survey their land or even finish their houses. So we decided to start a Sacco where people could save and take credit to develop their land,” John Mark Golooba, the Buladde Financial Services manager said.
From 80 members in 2016, Buladde currently has a total membership of 2,553 members as of December 2019 and about sh1.12 billion has been disbursed out in loans in the last 4 years.
Although credit was initially for land-related developments, Golooba said that they later realised that people need credit to do other developmental projects such as business.
Despite the growth, Golooba said the Sacco has been grappling with a number of challenges including some people wanting to access credit yet they do not want to save.
“Most of our people do not have a good saving culture and we discovered that such people also find it had to re-pay loans. However, Buladde came to change this narrative; we empower our members to develop themselves, borrow at affordable rates and repay in a convenient period,” Golooba said.
He, however, said that the saving culture is constrained by the manual process of saving and accessing credit, which makes it hard for members from far districts such as Masaka to diligently save and also access their savings when they need to.
Golooba, however, noted that the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the government to institute measures to constrain movement of people has opened their eyes about the importance of adopting the use of technology.
“Technology is very important for Saccos; banks and mobile money come in handy as we deliver our services. We are pleased to be part of the 40-days-40-FinTechs project and looking forward to improving our systems to further serve our clients,” he said.
Buladde is one of the entities participating in the 40-days-40-FinTechs project, an initiative of HiPipo, in partnership with Crosslake Tech, ModusBox and Mojaloop Foundation.
The initiative seeks to enable FinTechs to innovate solutions that facilitate cross-network financial transactions at minimal risks to enhance access to financial services.
Running for 40 days, the project will see the participating 40 FinTechs acquire interoperable development skills to improve access to financial services, using the Mojaloop open source software.
The HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya commended Buladde for the initiative to promote savings and credit through a niche product – land, but urged them to embrace technology, saying that currently, it relates to every sector.
“This is an intriguing product; you realised that you are in control of land that is usually an asset for security in every financial institution. If you are to give a loan, you know where to start from in case you need any recoveries. This is a niche centric product that is not only helping people understand finance but are also helping people learn good financial habits like savings,” Kawooya said.
He added: “The main role of financial technology is to improve financial inclusion and you are already doing that; you are already encouraging very many people to save money and also extending out credit to help people improve their businesses.”
Kawooya pledged to help Buladde get a test platform free of charge within about six months, so as to onboard its members on a digital system, powered by Mojaloop.