The word Kawu must be familiar to whoever attended boarding schools in Uganda. Kawu is that period in a boarding school when a student’s pocket money and grab – read packed eats and drinks – are over and the only thing left to feed on are the meals served by the school kitchen.
These meals are usually porridge, posho and beans. The word Kawu is an abbreviation for Kawunga (Posho) and Kawukuumi (beans weevils) served in most schools.
After going through long spells of Kawu, a group of young Ugandans don’t wish to see others in boarding schools suffer the same fate. As such, they came up with a digital solution for managing student’s pocket money and expenditure.
Named Kawu, the platform allows students to safely keep their money and spend it without wastage. It enables parents and guardians to periodically send money to students, manage their expenditure and also teach them financial discipline.
“In the past, the arrangement has been that parents and guardians leave money with teachers, matrons, wardens and canteen attendants. The student would then go and ask for the money whenever they need to spend. Sometimes, those left with the cash, get emergencies and end up spending this money with hope of refunding it. This arrangement is tiresome, risky, time consuming and doesn’t benefit those that keep the money,” Steven Kakooza, a director at Kawu Uganda explained the rationale behind the Kawu platform.
He added: “But with Kawu, a student has a smart card which s/he uses to make payments at school canteen and also withdraw money in case a need for cash arises. The teachers, matrons, wardens and canteen attendants are the agents that enable the transactions. They get a commission for this. All they need is a smartphone to enable the transactions. A student only needs to have the Kawu smart card.
For the parents, they just need to log on to the APP, send money to the student’s smart card, and set periodic expenditure limits. Kawu benefits all stakeholders.” Since rolling out the platform at the start of the year, Kawu is already active in 20 schools and serving over 1,000 students.
“We have received a lot of positive reception everywhere we have gone. We are actually overwhelmed by the requests from different schools that want to enroll on to Kawu. Over 90 per cent of the schools we visit wish to have their students on Kawu. The team is now focusing on ensuring that we are able to accommodate the huge numbers that we are bringing on board. We are very optimistic that thanks to Kawu platform, Uganda’s students are going to become cashless very soon.”
According to Kakooza, Uganda’s financial inclusion story should include everyone regardless of age and location. “People always admire the flowers but ignore the roots yet without roots, the flowers couldn’t grow.
For our case, we are enhancing financial inclusion and teaching financial literacy right from schools so that by the time these students leave school, they are equipped with sufficient knowledge to do better financially,” Kakooza said.
Kawu Uganda Limited is the second participant in the 2022 40 Days 40 Fintechs initiative.