How Church Communities Can Offer the Key to Enabling Financial Inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa

(A thought leadership article by Saviour Kwaku Dzage and Theandra Sokolowski)

Financial inclusion has been a topic of focus for organizations globally who are working toward building sustainable economic development in emerging markets, for quite some time.

Thanks to innovations like mobile money, we are making progress in terms of access to alternative forms of financial services. In Kenya, for instance, access has reached above 80%, according to the Center for Financial Inclusion, with M-Pesa alone boasting 30 million users in 10 countries. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the share of adults with mobile money accounts exceeds 10%.

However, we still have a long way to go. According to the World Bank, today, more than 50% of the population – including 350 million adults – in Sub-Saharan Africa remains unbanked. In many Sub-Saharan African markets these individuals lack access to digital financial services of any kind.

What this means in today’s reality is not just that the unbanked lack access to these services, but that they lack any traceable data related to their finances. They lack access to formal insurance products, to loans, to investment opportunities, to cost-effective means of moving money across borders and to any sort of verified indicators related to their financial health. In return, institutions lack access to such data in order to determine credit scoring, ability to pay back a loan and proper demographic insights.

It’s not for lack of trying on the part of some financial institutions who have rolled back previously stringent identity requirements, service fees and minimums in an attempt to enable more members of the population to access their services. More agile fintech companies are working to create a variety of savings schemes and tools that take into account those at the bottom of the pyramid. However, more than 50% of the population is still not accessing these services. One major reason? The lack of trust runs deep.

“One of the key reasons many people in African markets are not taking advantage of the digital banking and credit offerings that now exist is because they don’t trust financial institutions. They bring cash to the bank, it disappears, and for them there is no guarantee they’ll be able to access it. These are strong cash societies – when their money is physical, they know where it is at all times,” said Saviour Kwaku Dzage, CEO of Asoriba.

One place that does hold the trust of many individuals across Sub-Saharan Africa, however – from the wealthy to the unbanked – is the Church. Nowhere in many African countries is the sense of community stronger than within Christian organizations.

“Church is where you go to belong, to find reprieve and to ask for help when it’s needed most. It’s a social event to attend Church. It’s also a support network. Pastors can provide their community physical and spiritual guidance, and even at times financial support,” Mr. Dzage said.

Church communities hold the key to an engaged and a trusting mass audience, who – most importantly – pays their tithes to the Church on a consistent basis. This act alone is one of the few data points available for those who are not included in the system. But the majority of this data remains in privately held records which belong to the Church – or in many cases, barely records at all.

Asoriba, a fintech company headquartered in Accra, Ghana, has found a way to infuse technology into the Church community by offering a comprehensive CRM tool for Church leaders, as well as a member app for the congregation, which can be used to communicate with other members of the church, contact the pastor, keep track of upcoming events, and now, to pay tithes.

With the help of Church leaders, Asoriba has created a product which is enabling members of their congregations to open banking or mobile money accounts for the first time, track their finances and more easily contribute their tithes through the mobile app. In turn, the Church has more data around its congregation, and is able to bring more of its members into the digital space.

CEO Saviour Dzage believes this can be the way forward for financial inclusion efforts on the continent. “I believe once the church embraces digital technology, the future of having a wholly inclusive financial society is not far fetched. This is because churches are typically slow to technology adoption but once they are on board, the influence and impact are so great.“ 

Insuring for the future

Despite lack of access to accounts, the saving culture among the unbanked is far from weak. A significant proportion of Church community members often come together to create informal savings circles, or savings clubs. Those involved all agree to contribute a certain amount per month and can request from the group to withdraw when needs arise. 65 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa are saving today using this sort of semi-formal method (World Bank).

What this proves is that there is an understanding of the need for insurance tools, and a willingness to contribute monthly – to save – toward a time when a withdrawal may be needed. What’s lacking is the addition of a formal body to manage these funds and independence from the group scheme.

In South Africa, an insurance company is developing a solution designed specifically to be accessible for the masses. What they need is a way to reach them. Enter Asoriba and their member Churches.

“In the same way we’re able to leverage Church communities to offer trusted ways for individuals to access digital financial services, we’re looking to offer access to valuable insurance products which can be more trustworthy and cost-effective means of insuring for the future, verses the informal circles currently in place. In reality, it’s a small shift for these members to make, but we know that psychologically it can feel like a substantial leap. That’s where support from Church leaders becomes crucial.”

By digitizing their finances – from opening bank accounts, to subscribing to insurance policies, to collecting historical data on regular weekly or monthly payments – many who have historically been shut out are finding a way into the system.

The way forward

Church communities are a critical centerpiece in the lives of many Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa – for a good reason. They offer a place for belonging, a trusted community and guidance in difficult times. For pastors and Church leaders looking for a better way to help their congregation better access essential services and financial support, connection to bank accounts and insurance products through Asoriba’s offering can be the answer.

Could this be the channel that moves the needle for financial inclusion on the continent?

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Geolocation is Here!!

Written By Dzifa Elorm Amenyitor

 

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Afua has the habit of getting to church late and anytime she gets to any of the entrances, she has to spend extra time to check in with either her fingerprint or tag.  Already running late, she also has to spend extra time at the entrance to check in.

Technology as we have come to  know is designed to get the most done with less manual work. And that’s exactly what Asoriba aims at as we announce our latest update, the Geolocation Check In.   

 You no longer need to join a queue at the entrance, check to see if you brought your tag to church or even dial a check in code during service, your mere presence at church  does the trick. 

Our Geolocation update allows you to check in to any service from your mobile app based on your location (which should be your church premises). Continue reading

Five ways to save time on Asoriba

Ever feel like there’s not enough time to complete your activities? Whether you already have structures in place or have the need to create measures to ease your work load, these five features on Asoriba are sure to make your members feel cared for,help you save time and ultimately make you fulfilled.

  • Member Age Actions

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It is extremely hard for the church to manually monitor the ages of it’s members especially for the children’s ministry and youth wing. On asoriba, the stress of doing this is ruled out. Automatically move members from one group to another when they reach a particular age at just a click of a button!

How  to use this; Admins select actions that automatically transfer members who attain a certain age into specified branches, groups or departments within the church. For instance, transfer a member from Teens Ministry to Adult Church when he/she attains the age of 20.

Church administrators who tested the release in the pilot say the auto-triggers feature is a time saver – some even say it is God-sent. You should try this out and see!

  • Member Absent Actions.

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Like the member age actions, this feature can be the first level of follow-up in reaching out to members when they are absent from church.

How  to use this;

 Under auto triggers, church admins can configure messages to be sent to members who do not show up to church services .

  • Message scheduling

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We’re all busy and tend to forget but using asoriba should help eliminate forgetfulness. Schedule announcements, devotions, events and sermons if you tend to forget or are in the habit of postponing but never really get around to doing it.

How to use this:

After creating your message in new broadcast, uncheck the “send now” icon and go on to select the prefered date and time you would like these messages to be sent.

When you feel it’s too early or too late to send that announcement or message, Schedule  so it never slips.

  • Birthdays/Anniversaries

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    When members’ dates of birth/marriages (wedding dates) are provided in the database, church admins can set up customised birthday/anniversary SMS and/or push messages that would be delivered automatically on a member’s wedding anniversary or birthday.

How to use this:

Configure birthday/anniversary messages in Message templates in the autotriggers section on Asoriba.When this is done,members receive messages on their birthdays or anniversaries.Save yourself the stress of doing  this manually.

  • Assigning specific roles to specific admins

We believe in the saying ;”Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.And we believe one way each church can maximise the use of asoriba is assigning separate admins specific roles. Assigning individuals to use specific features such as communication,membership.finance etc not only

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saves you time but also gives each administrator a sense of responsibility.

How to use this;

Under admin settings, located in the Settings feature, grant administrative permissions to other users.

Rather than spend time doing all the work, employ the addition of other administrators to ease your work load. You’ll save time and ensure everyone knows what they’re responsible for.

We’re all busy and we all forget but employing these features on asoriba can mitigate the issue of forgetfulness and save you tons of time.

 When you’re busy every second counts !

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Instant calls to all;an alternative to sms

Can you imagine how your members would feel if they had a personal voice call from the pastor? Asoriba in collaboration with Kirusa makes it possible to reach members instantly and get prompt responses from them by the introduction of this new outbound dialing service.

Now, this is how you reach your entire congregation via voice calls or pre-recorded  audio file(s):

 

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The advantages of using this service are many;

First, the overwhelming and burdending feeling of calling each and every member is dealt with. With up to 60 seconds, you can communicate more information than you could over text.

Second, you get to communicate undiluted time-sensitive information, preferably in your own voice. You get the attention of all your members almost immediately, especially when you are communicating time-sensitive information which require high levels of trust from members.

Also, you are assured of getting a higher response rate because your members feel a personal connection with you through the voice call. In fact, there’s no better way to reach your members besides a personal call.

Another plus is that you can schedule voice call campaigns and be in complete control over when they should be delivered so you can increase response rates. In cases where phones of members are switched off or inaccessible, messages are sent via text requesting the member to dial a short code to listen to the message for free.

It is also worth noting that the system sends delivery reports showing the status of every voice call sent to the sender. The status of answered calls, unanswered calls and unreachable numbers are shown.

Lastly, the members get to see the name of who the call is coming from. Asoriba will require you to use a valid phone number which must  be verified as the sender ID.

How wonderful it is to get members placing more value on the information they receive. Waste no time, upload that prayer, prophetic declaration, announcement or motivation and schedule or send them now!

 

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A Caring Church Never Forgets!

Written By Isaac Amoh-Agyebeng

 

The other time, all the passengers aboard a ‘trotro’ (public transport bus) felt sorry for one young lady who had to alight at a distance that was about 3 km ahead of her supposed destination. The funny reason being that she was fast asleep. She looked so tired and worn out. One woman in the middle seat asked her, “Why, are you a secretary?” The shy-looking lady nodded in agreement and responded, “Auntie, our work is not easy oo… hmmm” She got down and we continued our journey. Some young men in the back seat kept saying in Twi, “Secretaries abr3 oo… Girls nso nso abr3!” Literally, “Secretaries are tired… Girls are also tired!” This whole incident sparked a long conversation about the tasking job of secretaries and forgetfulness. Stories were even told of a woman who once locked up her child in the back seat of her car for several hours before she remembered what she’d done.

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Forgetfulness is a common thing but it doesn’t always result in common errors or mistakes. Sometimes, it can cost one a very valuable relationship, item or opportunity. If you think I’m exaggerating just for the sake of writing, forget to lock your door or forget the birthday of your better half or girlfriend/boyfriend and you will know how pepper feels on the eye.

For church leaders or administrators, forgetfulness could cost us to lose track of pledges made or even lose a member/soul. Church leaders often  forget to contact first-time visitors after taking their details or forget to remind members who made pledges during fundraising events to redeem them. Worse of all, we sometimes totally forget about members who haven’t attended services for weeks. The Fact is, we are human and are bound to forget. But in this age of technology, should there not be some tech solution of a sort to save us the hustle? Well, read on because Asoriba’s new auto-trigger feature is the solution.

The auto-triggers feature can be found under the main “Reminders” feature in the Asoriba web application.All you have to do is to create the templates, configure them and auto-triggers does the work for you. You will love this whole new smooth release because it brings so much ease. (I hope you caught my rhyme.)

Below are a few among the numerous situations which Asoriba’s auto-triggers feature does the magic:

Birthdays: When members’ birth dates provided in the database, church admins can set up customised birthday SMS and/or push messages that would be delivered automatically on a member’s birthday.

Anniversaries: When members’ dates of marriages (wedding dates) are provided in the database, church admins can set up customised anniversary SMS and/or push messages that would be delivered automatically on a member’s wedding anniversary.

Church Attendance: Church admins select options under “Attendance Trigger Configurations” to configure automatic messages for member/visitor church attendance or absenteeism.

Payments & Pledges: Financial secretaries or church admins select options under “Finance Trigger Configurations” to configure customised messages in the form of receipts/appreciation SMS or push notifications (to members who make donations) or redemption reminders (to members whose pledges are due for redemption).

Age-related Member Transfers: Admins select actions that automatically transfer members who attain a certain age into specified branches, groups or departments within the church. For instance, transfer a member from Teens Ministry to Adult Church when he/she attains the age of 20.

Church administrators who tested the release in the pilot say the auto-triggers feature is a time saver – some even say it is God-sent. You too have to test it and see.

 

try now icon Continue reading

Your Favourite Christian App Just Got More Awesome

We’re super excited about the latest release of the Asoriba mobile app! Our growing community of young, dynamic Christians have enjoyed several amazing features in recent months: from saving memorable content, introducing private messaging and beefing up the experience on the Asoriba forums.

We also had a major  activity throughout the month of October: we joined Christians around the country (and some elsewhere in Africa) in reading the book of Proverbs. All these were possible because of your commitment to our community and many platform improvements that we rolled out.

Today, we present the latest update of Asoriba.

The first thing you’ll notice is a change in the main interface. Previously, Asoriba was organised into three sections: your Newsfeed, your Church and your Church donations. For many of you whose churches are not yet using our amazing Church Management Solution, your experience on Asoriba was limited to the Newsfeed and the friends you followed and of course, our forums.

This Christmas, Asoriba brings your friends much closer to you. For those who don’t belong to any church on Asoriba, the Church tab has been replaced with a list of suggestions you can scroll and search through. Finding people you care about should be easy. We’ve worked on that!

In a move to enrich the conversations we have on our platform, Asoriba’s messaging features – the Forums and Private Messages – now include their own emoji keyboard. Just like you have on WhatsApp, your favourite 😯,🙄 and 😘 are now just a tap away. No more wishing your Android keyboard shipped with an emojiboard! 😂

Even better, Asoriba now lets you send images while chatting! Yes, we heard you and we did it!

We’re also giving you more control over your notifications: Private Messaging and especially Forum notifications. You can still join the conversation when you have time, without being buzzed every moment someone says “Hi” on the Asoriba forums. More power to you!

You’ll notice another significant change in our user interface on Android: the menu which opened with a swipe from the left of your phone’s screen has been shifted to its own tab to the right of the application. This should make it a bit easier to reach and scan through to quickly get to what matters in the app. There’ve also been significant improvements in searching on Asoriba: with a simple swipe, you can choose between searching for people or churches to check out and join.

Previously, donating to a church or ministry through Asoriba was restricted to registered members of the church, or people who specifically joined the ministry. This had been a problem for users who weren’t comfortable “joining” another church just to donate. We thought hard about this, and decided to make a major improvement with this release.

Now, anyone with a debit card or Mobile Money can donate to any church or ministry on Asoriba. This is such a big deal for us, and a breakthrough for the hardworking men and women of God who dedicate their lives to providing amazing content on your favourite Christian app.

There’s so much to talk about in this new update, we cannot contain every amazing improvement in one blog post. This is why we introduced perhaps our favourite feature! From this update onward, we will be sharing with you, directly through notifications, awesome tips on things you can do on your app.

This is content like you’ve never experienced before. With this new release, Asoriba makes content and personal connections richer and more engaging.

See you on the new update!

 

Introducing Forums;a new way to connect on Asoriba!

Connecting with your church and friends on Asoriba just got a whole lot more exciting.Check out new features such as Forums,one-on-one  chat and Saved posts.

Foums :a new way to connect

Want a fun way to share or exchange ideas,ask questions, and share experiences?Then forums on asoriba lets you do so.  Engage with members of your church and the christian community on relatable topics in areas of  Salvation,Love ,Relationship and more.

Stay up to date with your church and the christian community at large by approving to receive notifications in the topic settings.

 

 

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To join a Forum,tap on =  icon on the upper left coner of your home screen and select forums.You can then choose your preferred topics of interest and join in the discussion.You would see in real time the comments made on the chosen topics.Contribute by using the “Enter a message “bar.

NB//To follow conversation in real time,tap on the “settings’’ icon next to the forum topics to get notified with new contributions as they come in.You can also unfollow by choosing ”NO” in the forum settings to stop notifications.

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Personal Chat:Connect on with one-on-one chat.

At the end of last year we launched asoriba as a social app.To even help you connect more with your church and the christian community we have launched  a chat feature within the app.Feel like connecting with your pastor or  member directly?Then asoriba allows you reach out with ease.We would love to see how fast members can connect with their leaders and the church.

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Saved Posts:Bookmark posts you want to revisit later

Most of us find ourselves taking screenshots of pictures but find no means to do so for audio or video files.Asoriba has a new feature that allows you  save not only that devotional or announcement but also all  your favorite audio and video posts .This  new update allows you save that favorite post or song and watch later.
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Simply tap on the icon on the upper right corner of the post in your feed you want to save.To view saved posts,tap on the = icon and go to saved posts to view all the posts you’ve saved.

We hope you like these new features just as much:-]

Don’t keep the goodnews to just yourself; tap on Share with a friend to tell them all of how exciting it is on asoriba.

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