In March 2013, I took on a leadership role with P-Save, a Christian based tier 4 microfinance institution. Two months later, my wife, Ritah and I after many months of contemplation, debate and procrastination, enrolled for Class 11 of the Oakseed Executive Leadership Training of the Institute of National Transformation (INT). It was during the Oakseed training that we begun to understand that transformation does not just happen. It takes deliberate effort to turn mediocrity into excellence. I also realized that my new leadership position at P-Save was a great opportunity to practice the many things we were learning at INT. I therefore decided to make P-Save my Individual Project for the training.
The training helped us conceptualize our ideas into a project proposal and we set out to grow P- Save into a great Christian organization that not only provides excellent financial services to members but also contributes to the expansion of God’s Kingdom in the business sphere.
Having started my legal career in a bank, over time I realized that despite the considerable progress in the expansion of Uganda‘s financial services sector, our country still suffers from low savings rate which translates to high costs of lending and low indigenous investments. More so, financial institutions prefer to invest in low risk government securities rather than lending to the broader segment of the population, which is considered very risky. So while the financial system is able to provide financing to people in need of credit facilities, most of the credit is short-term credit (with a tenor of 6 to 36 months) and funding for longer maturities is largely unavailable which in turn severely curtails the financing of long-term development projects, which is a further constraint to economic development. The growth of long-term finance has been slowed by issues such as high interest rates, difficulties in accessing credit and a generally underdeveloped financial system with limited options. Many people resort to obtaining credit from money lenders, a group which has gained prominence for their quick loans which come at very exorbitant and exploitative interest rates, thus leaving most of their borrowers destitute.
But even of more concern to us, most financial institutions in Uganda are foreign owned and by necessary implication tend to serve the interests of their foreign shareholders at the expense of the indigenous Ugandans. This became very evident in the financial year 2011/2012 when inflation reached close to 30% and banks increased their loan interest rates on account of the high inflation. As a result, many Ugandans saw their disposable incomes eroded and many lost their property to the banks. Yet amidst all this suffering by ordinary Ugandans, the banks posted supernormal profits, most of which were subsequently repatriated to the foreign shareholders.
We therefore felt burdened to strengthen indigenous grassroots financial institutions like P-Save that will serve the interests of our community. More so, we were convinced that we needed to raise a Christ-like financial institution that will not exploit the unsuspecting consumers, but rather serve the Kingdom of God through the application of biblical principles regarding finance, credit and investment.
P-Save as a Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) is classified as a tier 4 financial institution and is regulated as such. The INT training enabled us position P-Save as a vehicle for national transformation by developing a savings culture among the members, thereby increasing their access to financial resources for investment and personal development. P-Save’s purpose is to enable and facilitate its members to achieve financial freedom. And the purpose of my INT Individual project was to use my skills to grow P-Save into the preferred financial services partner that enables and facilitates members to achieve their development needs.
The project is still on-going and by the grace of God we have witnessed tremendous growth and excellence as a result of implementing the lessons from the INT training. Since graduating from INT in October 2013, we doubled our membership, doubled our savings portfolio and tripled our loan portfolio in less than three years. We have also since increased from one branch to three branches as well as increased from one permanent staff member to five permanent staff members working with several volunteers. But more fundamentally, we have used the INT training to become disciplined people practicing disciplined thought and disciplined action. One of our most enriching and rewarding disciplines is a weekly book review in which each of our staff share what they are learning from a book they are reading.
Our work, discipline and dedication at P-Save is derived from the greatest lesson we gained from INT, that national transformation begins in the heart of a transformed and disciplined individual. Before we can have dominion in any sphere of society, the individual must first have a personal transformation.