The Bank of Uganda has advised the Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (Saccos) to invest more in technology to enable them to begin providing financial services via digital channels which will help them to lower interest rates.
Addressing cooperators during Uganda Cooperative Savings & Credit Union Seventh Annual Conference held at Imperial Royal Hotel on November 25, the deputy governor of Bank of Uganda, Dr Michael Atingi-Ego said the enhanced capacity and richer resources will enable Saccos to invest in effective systems and innovations, such as digital channels, to offer services at scale.
“The BoU is already implementing the National Payments Systems Act 2020 to promote broader financial services delivery through safe, sound, and regulated payment system providers and FinTech firms. Embracing technology will enable them to improve service delivery at a potentially lower cost to customers,” he said.
Quoting the international research, Dr Atingi-Ego said that digitalisation is the “new normal”, with McKinsey (a global consulting firm) predicting that the rapid migration to digital technologies driven by the Covid-19 pandemic will continue into the future.
The adoption of digital technologies is essential to “remodelling the Sacco business for inclusivity” due to the recent acceleration of access to mobile money accounts and the usage of digital payments during the pandemic.
Dr Atingi-Ego further explained that harnessing the digital economy will open up additional economic opportunities for Saccos, including income-generating activities, accessing new markets, and richer information for farming or business activities. Digitalisation was considered a top strategic priority for 81 per cent of the credit union associations surveyed by the World Council of Credit Unions in 2021.
Dr Atingi-Ego expressed optimism that the regulation of Saccos, payment service providers, and FinTechs will alleviate the constraining lack of access to payment systems, correspondent banking, micro-insurance product offerings, and deposit insurance guarantees, which have held back the development of the sector until now.
In addition, he said nationwide reliance on mobile phones offers a platform for Saccos to build partnerships with mobile money providers to collect member savings, disburse loans, and enable members to make payments for various services cheaply and quickly.
He also advised that with technology in place, Saccos may analyse the data on the financial behaviour and capacity of members to inform the customisation and enrichment of the portfolio of products and services offered.
“We urge Saccos to work with development partners that support innovation to explore the opportunities that remain untapped in areas such as providing affordable housing, health, and insurance services to members, especially those at the bottom of the economic pyramid,” he said.
However, on a cautionary note, Dr Atingi-Ego said the inevitable reliance on digitalisation through information technology systems such as computers and networks for key business activities will expose you (Saccos) to several risks.
The risks he said include; general IT threats, including hardware and software failure; malware; viruses; spam, scams and phishing; and human error. Criminal IT threats including; hackers, fraud, password theft, denial-of-service, security breaches, and staff dishonesty also stand their way if they fail to invest in robust IT systems, internal controls, and business resumption planning.