New Forms of Social Insurance: The Case of the KAMBE Savings and Credit Cooperative in Uganda

The experience of the KAMBE SACCO highlights the importance of savings as a safety net for workers in informal employment in times of emergency. During Uganda’s COVID-19 lockdown, with no other support available, two-thirds of the KAMBE SACCO’s members withdrew their savings from the Cooperative, averaging 600,000 Ugandan shillings per person, most of which was used to cover essential expenses like food to feed families. This was a lifesaver for many members through the pandemic, in a context where boda-boda riders were unable to go out and earn a living due to lockdown restrictions. The appeal and versatility of the KAMBE SACCO lies in the multiple suites of loan services it provides; they cover both business/income-related services (motorbike loans) and personal household functions (land, school fees and home appliance loans). These could potentially be pivoted towards social protection, including health insurance. Building trust among members is crucial for safeguarding the long-term sustainability of savings and credit cooperative schemes geared towards workers in informal employment. To this end, the KAMBE SACCO needs to work towards ensuring administration in line with statutory requirements – by putting formal systems and proper financial procedures in place, as well as by training executives at all levels on the fundamentals of SACCO administration. The SACCO could also leverage its grass-roots structure and geographical spread for more democratic and inclusive outcomes.