Saved money must earn interest, says Bank of Uganda

Many Ugandans continues to save money through informal means, which means that such money does not gain value.   Photo / File 

What you need to know:

  • Bank of Uganda says money saved through informal means such as in pots or under mattresses doesn’t gain value and does very little to spur growth

Bank of Uganda (BoU) Deputy Governor Michael Atingi-Ego has said money kept in informal saving schemes such as pots and under mattresses does less and less as time goes by, because it does not gain value. 

In a keynote address delivered during commemoration of World Saving Day in Kampala, Dr Atingi-Ego said financial service providers must start to ensure that they give maximum security of customer savings, while at the same time help to preserve value by paying interest on their deposits. 

“Saving money without earning a reasonable return … in a pot or under a mattress, is unwise because the amount stays fixed while the prices of goods and services typically keep increasing year in and year out. And if we accept that “money is what money does”, the money in a pot does less and less as time goes by,” he said.

Therefore, he noted, the only way to preserve and grow the value of money is to earn a return greater than inflation, which can only be done by saving with formal and regulated financial institutions, such as banks, credit institutions, and microfinance deposit-taking institutions.

Uganda has a largely low saving culture with some analysts pointing to the absence of an incentivized saving system, with savers having very low return or nothing at all for their savings, which force a number of potential savers to opt for informal set up. 

Analysts also point to a drain in confidence due to events such as collapse of banks, especially in the 1990s and the growing trend of cybercrime, in which cases of some customers’ bank accounts being emptied, have been reported.  

This has in turn impacted the price of lending, given that financial institutions have to use substantial sums to secure credit for onward lending.

Interest rates in Uganda have for the last 20 years averaged at above 20 percent with a number of financial institutions citing the cost of mobilizing money for lending as the main cause. The 2020 Financial Capability Survey conducted by Bank of Uganda indicated that about 50 percent of Ugandans save money, of which 40 percent, save for immediate consumption, while only 20 percent save towards achieving a specific life goals, such as owning a house. 

Less than 5 percent save to invest, which leaves a wide gap in mobilisation of investment capital and business expansion. 

This, as a result has forced Bank of Uganda to work on a new National Financial Inclusion Strategy for 2023-28 that is expected to reduce financial exclusion and access barriers to formal financial services, expand the use of high-quality and affordable formal financial products as well as bolster financial consumer protection and capability, among other. 

Dr Atingi-Ego also noted that there was need to ensure that Ugandans attain a strong degree of discipline, which will support the country to achieve a desired saving culture, which has remained a challenge for a number of years. 

“Saving money is not always easy, but it is a discipline that we should all strive to develop,” he said, noting that Bank of Uganda would continue to support growth of a solid savings culture by ensuring that Ugandans have a safe and sound financial system to save their money. 

The evolution of mobile money has also been key in creating a new avenue for saving, with a number of Fintech operators creating multiple saving channels.