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Savings at the Frontier

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Savings at the Frontier is a partnership between Mastercard Foundation and OPM that aims to improve the financial inclusion of low-income individuals and communities in sub-Saharan Africa.


Constantin Albot Elisabeth Resch Janet Hayes Kandi Shejavali Robert Smith Robert Stone Saltanat Rasulova Stephen Peachey Sukhwinder Arora A0600

SatF aims to learn from ongoing work on the promotion of informal savings groups and other informal savings mechanisms (ISMs) and how they currently link with formal financial institutions on savings, credit, insurance and other financial services.

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The programme is working with, and providing funding to, selected financial service providers (FSPs) in the three focus countries – Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia. The programme seeks to support the testing, development, and implementation of scalable, sustainable, and innovative solutions to improve the delivery of formal financial services to the underserved populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

SatF is also producing evidence and sharing learning that can contribute to the development of effective, scalable business models for financial services delivery in frontier markets.

The programme was launched in November 2015 and is being implemented by OPM in collaboration with Bankable Frontier Associates, MicroSave, PSD Consulting, Development Pioneer Consultants, Kadale Consultants and other OPM associates.


SatF aims to address the challenges facing people currently using ISMs in Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.

An estimated nine million people in our focus countries who are excluded from the formal banking system find value in the informal services offered by savings groups or other ISMs. Appropriateness of services, convenience in access and trust of users in the ISMs make them popular across different segments of society, including poor people living in remote areas – a segment that is generally excluded from mainstream financial services.

However, ISMs only meet some of the needs of their members and are not available to all those who need them. Because of their informal nature, the safety of the cash collected is an important concern. In order to maintain simplicity and equity in the operations of the mechanism and to keep the record keeping burden minimal, restrictions are imposed on how much and how often members can save or withdraw, and for how long. As funds start to accumulate, safety of funds becomes an important concern.

Enabling low-income individuals to access a broader set of products and services can empower them with the knowledge, ability and tools to better manage their financial lives. It allows them to manage risk, save and invest for short- or long-term goals and provides other opportunities to improve their quality of life, through both formal and informal options. Most FSPs still find it quite challenging, however, to reach this frontier market profitably.

Our approach

SatF is taking a bold and innovative approach that appreciates the importance of ISMs, while also providing the choice to use more formal options. SatF aims to bridge the gap between the supply of formal financial services and users of ISMs, thus providing individual members with greater access to savings products that work for them.

The lessons learned will be shared with broader financial sector stakeholders, so that they can develop, implement and support effective solutions to improve the delivery of financial services to other marginalised populations.

We will do this through the following mechanisms:

  • Market analysis, awareness raising, and market coordination;
  • Financial support provided to FSPs;
  • Implement and monitor the programme;
  • Research on supply, demand, and impact of linking ISMs and FSPs;
  • Develop and implement a monitoring, research, evaluation and learning (MREL); and
  • Communicate programme learning.


SatF aims to scale up financial services for at least 250,000 rural and semi-urban users of ISMs in the three focus countries via innovative business models led by FSPs.

The programme will identify high potential business models, including the innovative use of technology, and pursue opportunities by supporting FSPs that can become market pioneers and establish an effective link and greater choice between the provision of informal and formal services.

By building an evidence-base on what does and does not work, SatF will contribute to the wider knowledge base on financial inclusion, helping to distil and disseminate insights for effective, scalable approaches that open the door to meaningful financial services for excluded populations around the world.

Mastercard Foundation; The power of savings groups; Bankable Frontier Associates; Development Pioneer Consulting; Kadale Consultants; MicroSave; Can insights from informal groups help us move from access to usage? Mastercard Foundation’s Savings Learning Lab Brochure