Savings Groups and Reaching the Very Poor: Insights from Expanding Financial Inclusion in Africa

  • December 4, 2017


Join us for a highly informative webinar on  

Designing and testing a more sustainable savings model for the poor

Catholic Relief Services and EFI Africa will share their hard-earned learnings after four years in four countries!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

9:30 – 11:00 AM Eastern Time


(before the Holiday rush!)


Catholic Relief Services’ Expanding Financial Inclusion Africa (EFI Africa) project, funded by Mastercard Foundation, is hosting this learning event in conjunction with Mastercard Foundation Savings Learning Lab. The EFI team will share key learnings from EFI’s research agenda, including:

  • A mixed-methods approach to developing a Pro-Poor Package and measuring poverty outreach
  • An innovative use of the Financial Diaries in Zambia with both SILC and comparison households
  • Challenges of the mobile money pilot in Uganda with MNOs and Commercial Banks
  • Breakthrough in post-project sustainability as a result of the PSP model

EFI Africa operated in four countries – Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia – through nine local implementing partners over a 4-year period. The core goal of the project was to expand financial inclusion to 500,000 vulnerable households through CRS’ Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) methodology to improve their resilience to economic shocks and the quality of their lives.  EFI Africa has already surpassed its project targets, forming 20,000+ SILC groups and reaching over 545,000 households. 

A major focus of this project has been to capture significant amounts of data* to shed light on the economic lives of our members, and enabled CRS to refine and strengthen the Private Service Provider (PSP) model which has proved to be both prolific and sustainable.

CRS EFI Africa staff will present key learnings that will impact the way CRS implements future SILC/PSP programs and hopefully transform how the Savings Group industry views financial inclusion.



Amy is a senior international development professional and microfinance specialist with over 25 years of experience.  She is currently the Project Director for the Expanding Financial Inclusion Africa contract managed by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and funded by The MasterCard Foundation, operating in four countries—Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia—designed to serve 500,000 SILC members over 4 years. Prior to returning to CRS, Amy was the COP managing the highly successful USAID Rwanda Integrated Improved Livelihoods Program – “Ejo Heza”, a complex integrated rural livelihoods program funded by USAID Feed the Future which provided services focused on nutrition, agricultural production and microfinance. Amy is a founding member and former President of the Board of Directors of Women Advancing Microfinance (WAM) International. Amy has transitioned into a Senior Advisor for Catholic Relief Services and will be supporting CRS country programs worldwide. She has lived and worked in Senegal, El Salvador, Uganda, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and now resides in Zambia.


Julie Lawson-McDowall has worked with some of the most effective programing in response to extreme poverty and gender inequality.  She draws on extensive academic research experience to ground her analysis of poverty for appropriate programming, policy, and evaluation advice.  She has experience with NGOs including Irish Aid, FAO, UNICEF, and World Bank and government organizations in developing social protection systems.  Julie has built capacity in a range of local research teams to ensure nuanced social protection, gender and livelihoods analysis.  These capacity building skills were most recently adapted for remotely managed research in the high-risk context of Somalia to map the gender division of labour for the greater inclusion of women and the socially excluded in FAO agricultural programming (FAO 2015).  She also has experience with financial inclusion initiatives, having managed the first scoping study of delivery systems for the Zambia SCTs (IAZ 2008); identified and adopted best practice selection criteria for a private sector delivery mechanism for an emergency cash transfer programme in Kenya (UNICEF 2011) and designed and managed a mobile banking pilot for FAO’s flagship Cash for Work programme.  Julie also worked on the interface between social protection systems and women and girls’ empowerment in programming on GEWEL 2015.  Julie is currently the Research Coordinator for the EFI project.


marc bavois has worked in pro-poor microfinance for 15 years, with field experience in over 20 countries. As Microfinance Technical Advisor, he leads CRS’s work on the SILC-PSP methodology and has written the manuals and trainer guides used in SILC programs across the agency. In addition, he has designed CRS’s master trainer program and was the technical lead for the EFI project. Previously he worked with Freedom from Hunger, where he supported MFIs and contributed to the development of the Saving for Change methodology.


Samuel is the Research Officer for the Expanding Financial Inclusion in Africa project.  His work has focused on the management and analysis of the SILC Financial Diaries research in the Northern Province of Zambia and the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) research in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia.  He also played a significant role in the developing and administering a portfolio of surveys related to the SILC-PSP methodology.  Samuel has worked in close partnership with TaroWorks, CRS, and partner staff members to refine the project’s use of the TaroWorks application to improve their monitoring and evaluation systems.  Prior to his work with EFI, Samuel worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia.


*EFI implemented a robust and innovative research agenda using data from the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI), the MIS SAVIX, the Financial Diaries and Ethnographic studies that focused on questions related to poverty outreach, financial behavior, and the SILC-PSP model.