The Bank of Uganda began taking financial literacy seriously four years ago—seizing on a 2011 study documenting individuals’ poor access to financial products. Today, the bank’s programs serve as a blueprint for other small nations looking to drive economic growth through economic education.
One of the nation’s biggest strides has been in the area of mobile payments. Registered mobile money users surged 11% in a recent one-year period. This has brought 2 million individuals into the financial mainstream, simplifying their ability to conduct personal and commercial business.
As in many developing nations, people with spotty access to financial services holds Uganda’s economy back. Some 62% of the population is shut out of the financial mainstream. Only 4 million in a nation of 37 million have bank accounts. Meanwhile, a World Economic Forum global competitiveness report found that Uganda lags in use of capital markets to spur business growth.
The Bank of Uganda is taking aim at these shortfalls through a national strategy for financial literacy that demonstrates the effectiveness of a single, countrywide approach—as opposed to the piecemeal initiatives found in other nations. The strategy is set at the top but encourages innovation. Numerous local saving and investment groups and clubs have formed—and new programs crop up all the time.
Two months ago, Uganda launched a program offering personal financial literacy camps over four days at locations around the country. One drew more than 500 participants. Sessions focused on bookkeeping, budgeting, and business management, and produced a rush of new bank accounts.
The bank recognizes that raising financial literacy is a long process, and intends to stay with it for the long haul. The effort requires consistent messaging. To that end, it has created a training of trainers program, where individuals are certified and lead programs in their communities. The curriculum is easily accessed on a website that supports the national strategy. The motto emblazoned across the top: Simplify Money, Magnify Life.
The bank has concisely stated its mission: provide focus, drive and momentum; encourage development of high-quality resources; use simple messages and encourage participation among diverse groups. It engaged more than 150 organizations in developing the strategy, including government offices, banks, media, consumer groups, the private sector and nonprofits.
Collaboration has been the key. Officials concede that much remains to be done. Next up: a social media campaign designed to show individuals the value of modern financial products and how to use them.
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