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Consumer Education Programme

In 2005, FSDU supported AMFIU and a contractor, Communications for Development Foundation Uganda (CDFU), to carry out a pilot project in consumer education primarily in the two districts of Masaka and Mbale. The project profited immensely from the participation of the Financial Extension Workers (FEWS) in those two districts, and at the request of the Ministry of Finance we agreed to provide materials to the FEWs in all the districts where they were working. An evaluation at the end of the project showed substantial changes in the knowledge, attitudes and practices of consumers in those two districts. Over the course of 2006, we developed plans to roll out a nationwide project, which started in early 2007.

The new project is broader in terms of its messages, partners, delivery channels, and geographic coverage. Consumer education is an area – not the only one - where Uganda has shown a leadership position in African microfinance, and therefore we contracted with REEV Consult to carry out a “Learning Exercise” to document the process, opportunities and pitfalls to avoid in consumer education, to facilitate its institutionalisation within Uganda, and disseminate the lessons learned elsewhere on the continent and in the world.

The national roll-out of Consumer Education has been split into two channels.

First, mass market communication of broad messages across the country. DFID awarded a grant to StraightTalk Foundation to implement this channel, and StraightTalk is working with CDFU as a sub-contractor. The campaign involves messages that were tested in the pilot phase, and found to be effective. These concern knowledge of consumer rights and responsibilities, and types of financial institution and product. In addition, in light of the Government’s desire to expand savings and credit cooperatives, we are including special messages for SACCO members in the national roll-out.

To help refine messages, and to provide baseline information, against which progress will be measured, FSDFU commissioned a study of 1,070 consumers in Bushenyi, Mukono, Kumi and Lira Districts. The survey provided the most accurate information yet available about the knowledge, attitudes and practices of microfinance consumers. In many areas, results were encouraging: most borrowers receive, read and understand contracts. In some areas, however, there were surprises: only half of the SACCO members (52.6%) knew that they own the SACCO.  Like wise only 30% said that SACCO members have ultimate authority. The statistics represent a disturbing oversight and may partially explain the high rate of SACCO failure in Uganda. The consumer education programme is concentrating on these and other areas where the baseline showed particular gaps in consumers’ understanding.

The new campaign also has broader outreach – covering most of the country, and nine languages. It has also broadened the delivery channels used. In the pilot phase, the campaign relied on posters, leaflets and flyers, radio call-ins, radio spots, and flipcharts used by Financial Extension Workers. The new phase has added newspaper inserts, called Money World magazine, modelled on other successful publications of StraightTalk. The Rural Business Culture component of the Microfinance Outreach Plan is an important distribution channel for these messages.

AMFIU is carrying out a parallel campaign working with MFIs and other institutions, with themes of Financial Literacy and SACCO members’ rights and responsibilities.

On 7-16 November, AMFIU contracted with Microfinance Opportunities, a US based firm, to offer a Training of Trainers to 29 AMFIU members and partners, including MFIs, District Promotion Centres and other institutions with training programmes. AMFIU is coordinating with participants now to encourage them to use the materials. AMFIU also has commissioned a theatrical piece that highlights the responsibilities of SACCO members around borrowing, shows the challenges that corruption and bona bagaggawale pose to SACCOs, and models good SACCO member behaviour. This skit has been performed around the country, by three separate drama troupes, to enthusiastic audiences. An impact assessment in August 2007 showed marked increases in understanding by SACCO members who witnessed the skit. AMFIU is looking for resources to allow it to continue to present many more iterations of the drama.

To coordinate these activities, we have created a formal mechanism, the Consumer Education Steering Committee, which first met on 7 February 2007

The consultants who carried out our Annual Programme Review said that consumer education was the single initiative of FSDU that was mentioned by every stakeholder they interviewed as a worthy initiative. The wide embrace of consumer education by MFIs has been remarkable and satisfying. Like any education program, however, it needs to be consistent, or the lessons learned will be attenuated by the passage of time. AMFIU is carrying out a campaign funded by the EU to promote transparency in MFIs, which overlaps somewhat with the consumer education activities now underway. However, we do not have a long term replacement for the mass market communication channel funding. 

Related Documentation
Consumer Awareness Survey Presentation
Presentation on the MFRC Consumer Education Programme
Presentation to the AMFIU AGM 2003

Evaluation Reports
Evaluation of Music Dance & Drama Communication Channel
Consumers Financial Education Evaluation
CEP Learning Exercise Final report

Consumer Education Posters (English Language Version)