Village Banks, or Community Banks, are informal mutual-support groups that have existed for decades in developing countries. Their aim is to offer financial help to people who have no access to the services of formal banks.
Members of a community form a group of usually between 25-30 people, which is governed by a self-made constitution. The group will typically meet on a monthly basis to transact.
Transacting involves each group member making a compulsory savings pledge, and an optional loan request that is approved by the group. The loans are repaid with interest, and at the end of a year-long cycle, members proportionally share the interest earned according to how much they have saved.
We are a tech startup that digitises informal savings and credit groups between friends and family networks, offering a multitude of opportunities to make your money productive.
We aim to improve financial inclusion and independence by enabling our users to access affordable capital and meet their savings goals.
Our simple and efficient platform provides an end-to-end secure, technical solution for your Village Banking operation
Simplified Record Keeping
Our platform allows you to easily record and track all transactions made within your group in real time.
Easy Movement of Money
Our Secure payment system allows you to deposit, withdraw and send money to any other user on the platform.
Invest Surplus Funds
Access to multiple APIs enables users the opportunity to have access to unconventional investments that will make unborrowed funds more productive.
Choose your payment method and start saving on a monthly basis.
Track your personal and group finances with real-time financial analytics. See who is saving and borrowing every month.
Choose your payment method and borrow money against your group's savings, to be repaid at low interest!
Earn competitive interest on your money that is being circulated in your group. The more you save, and the better your loans perform, climb the ComGrow ladder to access more capital at even lower interest!
More on Village Banking
What is Village Banking?
Village Banking is the term used to describe informal mutual support groups within a community. It is a banking practice in which members of a community form a group of usually between 25-30 people to save collectively, with the option for members to borrow from the accumulated funds without collateral. Group operations are commonly governed by a self-made constitution.
Why Village Banking?
Village banking is renowned for being implemented in economically challenged environments to help those who cannot access loans from traditional financial institutions. It’s primary benefits are that you can access affordable capital with little-to-no collateral, and that they have growth mechanisms at their core, enabling circulated funds to grow whilst being used productively
What problems do Village Banking groups typically face?
Offline Village Banking groups are faced with many challenges.
Here are a few common ones:
● Managing a group is very administratively demanding
● In most groups, transacting is restricted to set dates each month, which means you cannot save or borrow whenever you like
● Organising transactions is normally a nightmare, with members generally preferring different transaction methods and the flow of money having to be organised by a designated member or committee in the group
● Security of the group’s funds is often very questionable
● Members cannot track their transactions easily, leading to a lack of transparency and, ultimately, confusion
More on ComGrow
How does ComGrow solve the issues typically faced by Village Banking groups?
● ComGrow’s solution handles all of the group’s administration - automatically tracking transactions, providing comprehensive reports, reminding members of outstanding payments, and much more!
● With our solution you will benefit from a Village Banking experience that is suited to your financial schedule. You can now save and repay your loans whenever you want, and you’ll have a wider window to request loans or any payouts that you may need on a monthly basis.
● You no longer have to worry about how money moves into and out of your group’s fund - now this is all handled for you automatically. Further, ComGrow supports multiple transaction methods: Mobile Money, Bank transfers and Credit/Debit card, so you can be sure that transacting will now be easier than ever.
● When a member saves into your group on our platform their money is transferred directly into a Secure Trust Account where your group’s funds are held. These funds will only be accessible to the members in your group, and will only be disbursed in the form of loans or payouts, when requested.
● Our platform automatically keeps track of all of your transactions and provides you with detailed reports of your transactions and balances. Now you’ll always know exactly where you stand financially across all of your Village Banking groups.
Is ComGrow a Bank?
No, ComGrow is not a Bank. We are a platform that facilitates the operation of Village Banks, providing a secure and efficient way for people to enjoy the benefits of saving and borrowing collectively and at more favourable rates.
How does ComGrow drive down the risk of default?
ComGrow harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to better understand the risk of default associated with lending within the context of Village Banking in Africa. With these insights, ComGrow can optimise borrowing allowances for each member in a given Village Bank, thus safeguarding their funds. Further, ComGrow also offers Default Aid, which each group can opt into. By opting into Default Aid, a percentage of the group’s default is covered by ComGrow, thus reducing the group’s exposure to the risk of default.
Getting Started with the App
Can I use the ComGrow Application without a smartphone?
Currently, no. We are developing a version of the platform that will be available for non-smartphones in future.
How old do I need to be to use ComGrow?
Currently, you must be 16 or older to be registered on our platform.
What information do I need to register?
To comply with KYC laws set by the Bank of Zambia, as well as help keep your money secure, we require your full name, local Zambian mobile number, physical address, date of birth and NRC number.
How do I create a group?
Once signed up on our platform, simply click ‘Create a Group’. This will take you to a screen to choose your group’s settings:
1. Group name
2. Minimum monthly savings target
3. Cycle length (months)
4. Cycle start date
5. Monthly borrowing window (1st-10th, 10th-20th, or 20th to End of Month)
Submitting this information will register your group with ComGrow, and from there you can invite people to join as members of your group
How do I invite people to join my group?
If you are the group’s admin (i.e. you created the group), you’ll have access to our invite functionality. With this, you can invite any ComGrow user simply by searching their name or email address and clicking ‘Invite’. Your invitee will receive a secure joining code which they can use to easily become a member of your group.
How many people can I have in a group?
You can have up to 50 members in your group, including yourself.
Can I take part in multiple groups?
Yes. In addition to being allowed to create your own group, you are allowed to join multiple other groups given you have been duly invited by group admin.
More on Village Banking with the App
How often can I transact (Save, Borrow, Repay or get a Payout)?
You can save and repay your outstanding loans whenever you want. We do, however, advise that you stick to your repayment schedule when repaying your loans. Further, you will be able to borrow or make any payout requests on a monthly basis during your group’s designated borrowing period, as set by your group admin.
Are there transaction limits?
The only transaction limits are dictated by your bank (if you use debit/credit cards or bank transfers) or your mobile telecommunications operator (for mobile money).
How much can I borrow?
Depending on your group’s current balance, the most that you can borrow at any one time is 3 times your current balance. Your current balance is the sum of your savings, your repayments and your earned interest, less your loans and any payouts you may have taken. Note that your accessibility to capital is also influenced by your savings routine and by how well you stick to your repayment schedule.
When do I have to repay a loan?
When making a loan request, you choose your desired amount and the duration of your loan in months. Your repayment schedule and expected installments are calculated accordingly.
You take a loan of ZMW1,000.00 with a duration of 2 months and an interest rate of 10%. Your total expected repayment, ZMW1,100.00, will be due in equal monthly instalments of ZMW550.00 over the next two months.
Can I take out multiple loans?
Yes you can. Your available loan balance in each group is subject to a lot of factors, however, as long as it is positive and you haven’t defaulted on your current loans, then you can borrow up to that amount.
What happens if someone defaults?
If a group member fails to repay their loan in the agreed timeframe, their outstanding balance will primarily be recovered from their savings over the remainder of the group’s cycle. The defaulting member will not be able to take out additional loans until the outstanding balance has been repaid. Further, If the group has opted into Default Aid, ComGrow will cover a percentage of the defaulted balance, thus reducing each member’s exposure to default risk. Lastly, ComGrow has measures in place to engage with any defaulting member in order to resolve the issue as seamlessly as possible.
How long does it take to receive a loan or payout?
Receiving money is instantaneous and can be done directly to your mobile money wallet or your bank account.
Do I get notified about activity in my group?
Absolutely. The application has real-time notifications and alerts. You just have to make sure to enable notifications for the ComGrow application in your phone’s settings.
Can I view previous transactions?
Our application’s automated record-keeping system allows you to view a detailed overview of all your previous transactions. If you are part of multiple groups, you will also be able to view combined and separate transaction histories.
What happens if I make a mistake on a transaction?
Because we are not an e-money issuer and you cannot use our application to purchase goods or services, we cannot guarantee any transaction reversals. We strongly advise that you ensure your payment details are correct when transacting. If you at any point have any transaction-related queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]
What happens when a cycle ends?
At the end of your group’s cycle you will be paid out your full balance, including the interest you have accrued over the period. Once paid out, by default your group’s cycle will start again, however, you can choose to discontinue your membership to the group in question should you wish.
How do I make a saving deposit or repayment?
You can make a savings deposit or repayment through any of the following mediums:
i) Mobile Money
ii) Debit/Credit card
How do I borrow money or receive a payout?
You can receive money in the form of a loan or a payout through the following mediums:
i) Mobile Money
ii) Bank Transfer
How can I contact ComGrow for general enquiries?
How do I submit a complaint?
If you are unhappy about our services and would like to speak to someone, please send an email to [email protected].
In your complaint, please include the following details to speed up the resolution process:
i) Your full name (as registered with us)
ii) Your residential address
iii) Details of the complaint: please clearly state what has prompted your concern and when the incident happened (e.g. service or conduct of our staff), with any supporting evidence
iv) Any way you would like the complaint to be resolved
Following the filing of your complaint, you will be provided a complaint reference number to follow up with. We will try and resolve your complaint between 3 to 5 working days from the date of receipt (barring any exceptional circumstances).
Early Access Programme
What is the Early Access Programme (EAP)?
The EAP is a programme set up to enable early adopters to test out our mobile application and share their valuable feedback, in doing so, playing a part in improving the future of Village Banking for Zambia.
When will the EAP launch, and how long will it last?
The EAP is due to start September 20th, 2021, and will run for 16 weeks. The programme will be split up into two 8-week blocks, during which time a soft-release version and a full-release version of our application will be tested.
How do I communicate with ComGrow during this programme?
The ComGrow team will communicate with you primarily via WhatsApp during this programme. We will occasionally send information via email, from [email protected], so if you’re more comfortable with email, feel free to engage there.