Reinventing Tigo Pesa ‘Kibubu’ to nurture a saving culture

12Oct 2021
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Reinventing Tigo Pesa ‘Kibubu’ to nurture a saving culture

“A penny saved is worth two pennies earned-after taxes,” this is a quote by Randy Thurman, CEO of Retirement Investment Advisors, that has always had a profound inspiration on me. It’s true that wise people have, over the years, weighed in on money and, through their reflective thoughts.

Yet, the idea of saving isn’t new; it’s been there for ages with the most popular being the traditional ‘piggy bank,’ otherwise also known as ‘money box,’ a traditional method of saving that dates back from the 20th century BC in the Greek colony of Priene, in the ancient Asia Minor. But you still wonder why it is still a challenge in so many economies, Tanzania being among them, for many people to save.

Closer home, our ‘money box’ is usually a wooden structure and it’s popularly known as ‘Ki-bubu,’ ‘bubu’ being a Kiswahili word that means a person with an impaired sense of speaking: I might be wrong but I tend to think the word ‘Kibubu’ is a metaphor for being ‘permanently mute’ because once locked, the box is not supposed to be opened, at least not before it’s completely full or in times of financial emergency! Either way, a ‘Kibubu’ will always remain that, a ‘Kibubu,’ isn’t it?

Now, this money box’s intriguing story takes us to the ubiquitous issue of the saving culture or the lack of it among Tanzanians. We did not want to introduce something that is complicated but rather a product that mimics the daily lives and customs of our customers while adding a ‘cherry on top,’ interest, as we are constantly reminded, and rightly so, and still grappling with, our ‘poor saving culture,’ an often-quoted mantra that has continued to nag us like millstones round our necks.

As such, when Tigo Tanzania, partnering with Bank of Africa to launch ‘Tigo Pesa Kibubu’ recently, whispers could be heard mulling: is this finally the magic wand that could ultimately expunge Tanzanians’ not-so-enviable tag of being labelled the pejorative moniker of ‘saving dwarfs?’

It’s a valid question for, ‘Tigo Pesa Kibubu’ is not just your any other way of saving; it’s a pioneering saving product that enables customers to save and earn interest through their mobile phones. It is the latter-day ‘Kibubu,’ albeit digitally rein-vented, that links Tigo Pesa’s main wallet to ‘Tigo Pesa Kibubu’ specifically for saving purposes.

Offering customers a better and more convenient way of saving, ‘Tigo Pesa Kibubu’ is designed to provide a more positive outlook towards how Tanzanians manage their finances while at the same time ensuring a better, more organized and fulfilling standards of living. It is expected that with ‘Tigo Pesa Kibubu,’ a new saving behaviour and culture will be entrenched among Tanzanians, more so those who had been excluded from the formal financial system.

And, one may ask why is this important” A cursory glance at the available statistics demonstrates the low uptake of the saving culture among Tanzanians. The World Bank indicates that the gross domestic savings as a percentage of GDP in the country stood at 34.08 percent in 2020, a not-very-encouraging phenomenon during these times when the maxim, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ should be appropriately in vogue. 

Revealingly, Tigo Pesa’s innovative product comes with a three-pronged purpose: first, to offer choice for customers in developing a saving culture; second is to drive financial inclusion in the country; and third is to make a meaningful contribution to the nation’s economic growth.

That is why we believe that, with ‘Tigo Pesa Kibubu,’ our Tigo Pesa ecosystem that boasts almost nine million subscribers will continue playing a sizeable role in driving financial inclusion in the country while also contributing in the bridging of the gap in the level of exclusion which, according to Finscope Tanzania, stood at 28 percent in 2017. The majority of those excluded being from rural areas and include small-holder farmers, youth and women.

To sum up, the latest product has hit the ground mainly to shore up Tigo Pesa’s other innovative digital financial platforms in reaching the country’s unbanked population by providing an easy, secure and affordable payment and saving system to achieve financial inclusion.

Angelica Pesha is Chief Officer for Tigo Pesa at Tigo Tanzania.

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