Armed with an award-winning savings app, women in Kenya are combating poverty

Ching! Ching! Ching! rings a smartphone just retrieved from a metallic box secured with three small padlocks. The air is filled with chatter and laughter from a group of women as attendance is recorded for a weekly savings meeting held under a tree in the remote hills of West Pokot County in Kenya.

As part of Village Enterprise’s poverty graduation model, these 26 women from Cherukusi village have all been equipped with the training, startup cash, and mentoring to launch sustainable micro businesses. Every Thursday, they have their business savings group meeting, where they save weekly earnings from their businesses and provide small loans to each other—with repayment, including interest. With the income earned from their businesses and the savings and loans from their business savings group, these women are breaking the cycle of poverty for their households and better providing for their families.

But the ringing of the smartphone signifies that this isn’t a traditional business savings group—it’s part of Village Enterprise’s pilot of the DreamSave app—a digital savings ledger designed by DreamStart Labs. Instead of using paper ledgers to record their weekly savings, targets, loans, and repayments, the Tapoyen business savings group is using DreamSave.

Group officials record savings into the DreamSave app during a business savings group meeting in West Pokot.

Grace Chemtai, the chairwoman of Tapoyen group, which is named after the Tapoyo tree, a thick reddish bark tree that thrives in arid areas and whose branches are commonly used as a whip to herd cows due to its durability, enthusiastically praised the impact of the new savings app. DreamSave keeps track of each member’s attendance, savings, and credit records, significantly transforming the way they organize and conduct their meetings.

She said using the app had helped cut down meeting time by more than half—from two hours to about 45 minutes—while also boosting members’ attendance and savings, as they know the meetings would not take up precious time they could be using to attend to their various businesses.

“Attendance has improved since we started using DreamSave. Even the amounts of money we save have increased,” she said, adding that group members did not want to miss meetings because they know the app will use the attendance records to determine an individual’s commitment to savings and their ability to repay a loan.



DreamSave is changing the game for rural groups that have never used a smartphone before. Under Village Enterprise’s graduation model, which has lifted thousands of women and their families out of extreme poverty, the app is quickly replacing manual ledgers that are tedious to keep and occasionally prone to human error.

Reducing mistakes in financial records has also boosted the trust of members in their savings group’s elected officials that their money is safe.

Still in its pilot stage, DreamSave is proving to be a vital tool that not only makes it simpler for the business groups to run their affairs but also makes it possible for the economically disadvantaged to be financially included—ensuring that no one is left behind.

So far, a dozen groups—each with 30 members—across Kenya (West Pokot), Uganda (Soroti) and Rwanda (Rulindo) have started using DreamSave. These groups have recorded an average 50% increase in savings and 85% increase in meeting attendance, according to data gathered by Village Enterprise’s technology team.

The secretary of the Tapoyen business savings group signs off the day’s activity via DreamSave as the phone charges on a power bank. All group documents and electronics are kept in a metallic box with three padlocks.

The app also saves time for Village Enterprise’s business mentors who set up business savings groups, oversee their operations, and train new entrepreneurs on how to run their businesses and maximize profits. With the reduced time required for each group meeting, business mentors can now visit more groups each day than they could before.

“Technology can help us reach more people and have a greater impact on our effort to end extreme poverty. That’s exactly what DreamSave has helped us do in the regions we’ve piloted,” said Meshack Mbinda, Senior Director of Technology Solutions at Village Enterprise.

“We’ve observed that groups using DreamSave consistently emerge as top savers in their regions,” he added.

After a successful pilot, Village Enterprise now plans to roll out DreamSave to all regions of operation in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, with a long-term goal of having all business savings groups using the app by 2025.

In Chekurusi, a middle-aged woman chuckled looking at a smartphone after receiving Ksh.2,000 (about $13) as a short-term loan to get more feed for her poultry business. Her loan would be payable in a month’s time.

“DreamSave has brought us change, peace, and happiness!” Grace said amidst a symphony of approval from her group members.

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