Several years ago, while still in high school, Henry Damulira was on a ministry outreach from his home church, Seguku Worship Centre, about 10 miles south of central Kampala, Uganda. At the time Damulira was preaching the gospel and teaching English and math at the school in the Mukono district.
But then he noticed something unusual—fishermen in the village, having no access to banking services, hiding their meager daily earnings under large stones scattered all over their island. His observation, he says, “spurred me to develop a digital mobile saving platform which allows ordinary Ugandans to save money in banks through mobile money on their phones.”
Connecting fishermen to the banks was important, says Damulira, because their stone system not only left their money vulnerable to theft, but also made their cash too convenient to retrieve. They could access their money on a whim, and they often did, squandering it on frivolous purchases. “This left them in a cycle of poverty,” notes Damulira.
From his own experience, Damulira knew how easily savings goals could be hijacked by undisciplined habits. “As a teenager,” he says, “I had bought a piggy bank in which I saved my earnings from fetching water. At the time, my goal had been to save and buy a bicycle to ease my work and triple my daily income.” Instead of saving his money, however, he spent it on baseball caps.
When he saw what was happening at Rwajje Island and recalled his own experiences, Damulira realized that poor saving practices was a main reason why so many in Uganda remained poor. A study of 1,500 poor Ugandans showed that 99 percent failed to reach their savings goals through informal methods, either because the money was stolen or lost, or because they were too tempted to spend the money stored as cash. Estimates suggest that 3 out of 4 adults in developing and middle income countries do not have bank accounts.1
Damulira’s passion to support wealth creation among rural Ugandans led him to provide a secure digital platform that links up mobile phones to Airsave Saving and Credit Cooperative (Digital SACCO), in partnership with ECOBANK Uganda.
Damulira’s innovation was unique because it did not require the smart phone platforms upon which so many apps rely. His start-up company, Airsave, enables registered members to save and borrow money using a simple cell phone in small communities that have no physical bank.
Out of Uganda’s 40 million population, 90 percent are “unbanked” while 60 percent own mobile phones. Because the digital mobile saving platform can be accessed by 24 million with mobile phones, they can open up a digital account without having to step in a bank. Since its founding, over 3,000 people have signed up and lives have been changed through Damulira’s digital saving platform.
Thanks to Henry Damulira, Uganda’s unbanked can now access banks from their phones. For his digital innovation, AirSave won second place at the 2016 Africa StartUp Cup and came fourth in the World contest.
Seguku Worship Centre, Henry Damulira’s home church, is also where Steve Mayanja, well-known FCA minister with the World Outreach Ministry Foundation, is from. Damulira is son-in-law to Steven Kaweesa, a key leader in WOMF Uganda who was killed in a tragic car accident in 2016, which also took the lives of Ed Pohlreich and Scot Voltz.
Much of the information in the story above was found here.