Right in the middle of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Justine Namubiru was minding her business in Kawanda when some gentleman approached her and her colleagues and asked them if they were willing to join Buganda Kingdom’s Buladde Financial Services.
“We were told that Buladde would help us in saving and acquiring loans to develop our businesses. I was renting a kiosk then and I saw this as an opportunity to buy myself a bigger kiosk,” she recalls.
Namubiru and her colleagues reluctantly registered and went about their daily routines until a few weeks later when they were called and told that they were eligible for loans.
“I borrowed Shs 1m and I added it with the Shs 500,000 that I already had to buy a kiosk. I paid the loan back and even got a top-up to expand my business,” she says.
Similarly, Rehema Namugambe, a dealer in chicken and matooke at Masajja village, says she joined Buladde through a savings group of 12 members who collectively got a business loan.
“We get the money and each member boosts their business. With these loans, I have managed to expand my business and even put a facelift on my house,” she says.
According to John Mark Golooba, Buladde Financial Services is a microfinance that was started in 2016 with the major objective of helping members and Kabaka’s subjects to secure their land tenancy and improve their well-being through accessing affordable financial services.
“We have been working with several people to ensure that their settlements are secured like acquiring land titles, buying land, and accessing money to grow their businesses,” Golooba, the manager at Buladde, says.
He says Buladde currently has more than 3,000 members and a loan portfolio close to Shs 1.3bn.
“This has been an important initiative because several people were not able to access financial services in banks that need securities that many people don’t have. We came in to close that gap and ensure that people can access affordable services with unsecured loans,” he adds.
Golooba says that they target low-income earners by giving loans ranging from Shs 1m to Shs 30m.
“We believe that people who want more than Shs 30m can be able to access financial services from bigger banks,” he says.
On top of that, Golooba adds that they even have Kyapa loans to help bibanja owners secure their land tenancy and avoid evictions.
“Many tenants on land have been evicted by landlords because they lack the necessary ownership documents… So, we help these people to acquire these finances to cater to their financial needs or demands so that they can pay the landlords to also acquire titles,” he explains.
Not all rosy.
Golooba says that the past three years have been very challenging especially because of the business downturn brought by the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns.
“The economy is also currently unstable. You find that our loan values that were being accessed have shrunk. People who were taking between Shs 5m and Shs 10m are now taking lesser loans because of the current economic conditions,” he says.
He is however happy with the blessing brought by the 40 Days 40 FinTech initiative which has at least helped them transition from analogue operations to digital operations.
“We didn’t have much concentration on finding out what it means to go digital. We believe that this initiative has helped us to find the best systems in place,” he says.
Buladde is the twenty-third participant in Season Four of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative.
According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, Buladde is one of the FinTechs that typifies this initiative’s idea of last-mile financial inclusion.
“Buladde is one of the participants that have been with us since season one. We are proud of the steps they have taken from paper-dominated operations to digital financial services,” he said.
Now in its fourth season, HiPipo’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative has become a household name in the financial technology space of the East African region. In the last three editions, more than 100 FinTechs have been showcased, highlighting stories changing people’s lives, especially in the under-served sectors.
The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is organised by HiPipo in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner, and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.