Meet the Teams: Chomoka (Digital VSLA)

Over the past 25 years, CARE’s VSLA (Village Savings and Loans Association) model has revolutionized efforts to help low-income women improve their lives. Not only has CARE enabled 5,000,000 women and men to form and manage these life-changing groups, we have driven a global savings-led movement, engaging NGOs, banks, governments and donors in a journey that puts women and their savings first. Our efforts have resulted in over 12,000,000 members of VSLAs and groups like them as NGOs from global to local have replicated the CARE model. Members are routinely improving their lives through investments in education, health and entrepreneurship and women’s increased control over resources is leading to improved quality of life and opportunity for themselves and their families. VSLA has quite simply changed the game for poverty reduction. Through Chomoka (Digital VSLA), CARE is poised to do it again. This new initiative will empower low-income women to build a new generation of VSLAs that not only improve access to finance at the community level but also open doors to the digital economy that is rapidly transforming the world we live in and – until now – far too often leaving low income women further behind.

Chomoka is an emerging social enterprise driven by a proprietary mobile application used by VSLAs to manage their records, access banking services and gain advisory support from a trusted network of Chomoka agents. Once deployed at scale, Chomoka will accelerate and deepen formal financial inclusion while increasing usage of digital financial services in rural areas. The platform will generate an unprecedented, real-time data stream on the financial behavior of un- and under-banked groups and their members and offer new insights into the size, scope and behavior of these groups. Most importantly, Chomoka will enable groups to more effectively and accurately manage their transactions while also establishing digital financial histories and connections that open up a world of new possibilities. Chomoka expects to have over 1 million group members using the application by 2021.

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Meet the Team

Mwimbe Fikirini | Program Coordinator | CARE Tanzania

Mwinbe Fikirini is the Program Coordinator with CARE Tanzania, and for the last several years has planned, lead, organized, directed and evaluated implementations of financial linkage activities to the VSLAs groups in areas of operation including Morogoro and Zanzibar. Mwinbe brings extensive knowledge of VSLAs to the team, having also trained and monitored the adoption of financial linkage and Financial Education skills by VSLA members. Going forward, Mwinbe will translate the proposal into a viable activity at the field level, including VSLA engagement in product design and testing, VSLA training on the developed solution and formulation of a realistic, field-level scaling strategy. For the past two years Mwinbe has been leading the LINK Up project in Tanzania, the largest effort by CARE to enable VSLAs to access formal finance. She holds a Master of Arts in Gender and International Development from the University of Warwick obtained in 2012 and a Bachelor of Laws from University of Reading obtained in 2009.

Christian Pennotti | Senior Technical Advisor | CARE Tanzania

Having worked across CARE for seven years, Christian has a strong institutional knowledge and relationship needed to move the project forward and find the right institutional fit. Christian is the overall LINK Up program manager responsible for program quality, design, M&E, partnerships and donor engagement. He is the chairman of the project steering committee and will serve as the lead in identifying and coordinating with project development partners and other external stakeholders including donors and prospective investors. Christian is a recognized leader in market development and is frequently invited to present at industry events. He sits on the Board of Directors of Farm Shop Ltd in Kenya and is the Chair of the Board of Directors at the SEEP Network. He holds a Master of Arts in International Development from George Washington University obtained in 2005 and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan where he founded a branch of the National English Teachers Association in collaboration with local officials.

Ken Banks | Entrepreneur in Residence | CARE International

Ken Banks, Founder of kiwanja.net and creator of messaging platform FrontlineSMS, devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. He has worked at the intersection of technology, anthropology, conservation and development for the past twenty-five years and, during that time, has lived and worked across the African continent. He is a PopTech Fellow, a Tech Awards Laureate, an Ashoka Fellow and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and has been internationally recognised for his technology-based work. In 2013 he was nominated for the TED Prize, and in 2015 was a Visiting Fellow at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. In late 2015 Ken was appointed CARE International’s first Entrepreneur in Residence. He is also a published author, with his first edited book, “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator,” self-published in late 2013 with a follow-up, published by Kogan Page, released in March 2016.

Mark Malhotra | Innovation Advisor | CARE International UK

Mark Malhotra, Innovation Advisor for CARE International UK supports a number of social enterprises that CARE owns and operates globally. He provides technical support to the teams from business planning and financial modelling to operational guidance and hands on support. Prior to joining CARE Mark spent six years working in the telecommunications sector with a focus on marketing and partnerships. He has extensive experience working across organizations with IT, finance, sales and brand teams. He moved into the NGO sector through overseas placements in Jamaica with a local organization and in Egypt with the Aga Khan Foundation.

Karen Vandergaag | Analyst | CARE Access Africa

Karen is an analyst with the Access Africa program where she supports the LINK Up program’s monitoring and evaluation, CARE’s VSLA management information system, and the human-centered design process for the Digital VSLA project. She has previously spent time in Malawi working a youth entrepreneurship initiative, and a year in Brazil on a cultural exchange through Rotary International. Karen holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Honours from Okanagan College.

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