The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is piloting a mobile-phone application to improve financial and digital literacy in Rwanda.
The UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s least developed countries is working with local financial sector and humanitarian partners on encouraging use of the app, which is called ‘LENGA’, as part of its mission to increase ‘meaningful financial inclusion in the parts of the world that need it most’.
LENGA is at present being promoted in rural communities and refugee camps by field workers, according to a short explanatory video published last week by the UNCDF, which states that local-language versions of the digital literacy tool will ‘soon’ be accessible across ‘multiple countries’ globally.
The UNCDF is using local partners including including commercial bank Equity Bank, entrepreneur development network Inkomoko, microfinance institution Umutanguha Finance Company and US-headquartered Christian humanitarian organisation World Relief’s Rwanda operation to promote LENGA. These organisations have on-the-ground networks across the landlocked country, which has a population estimated at about 13 million, as well as being home to about 130,000 refugees (according to August 2021 UNHCR statistics).
The app has been in development for 18 months through the Rwandan government-supported ‘Expanding Financial Access & Digital and Financial Literacy for Refugees and Host Community in Rwanda’ project (known as ‘REFAD’), which was launched almost three years ago. The aim is to reach at least 10,000 Rwandans with LENGA through REFAD, according to Roselyne Uwamahoro, UNCDF’s country programme lead.
Mobile-phone use has grown ‘exponentially’
The LENGA app, which anyone with an Android device is able to download, carries video and audio content in the Kinyarwanda language, including quizzes and activities, along with demonstrations and explanations in areas such as creating savings plans and budgets, using mobile-money products safely and considering users’ capacity to borrow money
“In Rwanda, the use of mobile phones – even smart phones – has grown exponentially over the past few years,” said Uwamahoro in a press release last week. “UNCDF and partners found that there was a great deal of need for people to build their digital skills, and a great deal of excitement for our app during the testing phase of the REFAD project.”
Rwanda has ‘achieved impressive development gains’ since the 1994 genocide and civil war, according to the World Bank. The Washington DC-headquartered institution states that the country, whose president is Paul Kagame, was in the midst of an economic boom before the Covid-19 pandemic, with growth exceeding 10 per cent in 2019, driven mostly by public investments for implementation of the National Strategy of Transformation (2017-2024).
‘Press zero to begin…’
Other UNCDF-supported REFAD activity to use digital solutions for financial education purposes has included the use of a remote training delivery technology known as IVR (Interactive Voice Response).
REFAD’s objective is to improve financial access, as well as digital and financial capability, for refugees and host communities through saving groups.
Under the banner of REFAD, which is funded by British charity Comic Relief and Jersey Overseas Aid, Inkomoko turned to IVR as the Covid-19 pandemic prevented in-person gatherings.
Through IVR, which was developed and run by a Canada-headquartered global social enterprise called Viamo (short for ‘via mobile’), participants are enrolled to receive lessons (audio recordings) on a predetermined weekly schedule via their mobile phones (in their preferred language). Training mainly covers saving, digital financial literacy and business skills. Quizzes are incorporated at the end lessons.
By mid-June, 232 saving groups (each saving group has 15 members) had received training via IVR methods, with 72 per cent of participants being female, according to the UNCDF.
WATCH ‘Lenga – UNCDF’s Digital Financial Education App in Rwanda’ (2mins4sec)
Credit: UNCDF (via YouTube)