Financial Service Providers
- If you can, save with and borrow from financial institutions which are regulated and supervised by Bank of Uganda
There are three types of institutions which are regulated and supervised by Bank of Uganda: Commercial Banks (large financial institutions that offer loans and savings), Credit Institutions (similar to commercial banks but smaller) and Micro Finance Deposit-Taking Institutions (MDIs - microfinance institutions licensed by Bank of Uganda to collect savings from the public). The advantages for you in saving and borrowing with these financial institutions are:
- Bank of Uganda's objective is to ensure the financial soundness of financial institutions. This means that Bank of Uganda checks on financial institutions to make sure that your money is safe with them.
- To further protect your savings, all savings in financial institutions regulated by Bank of Uganda are insured up to UGX 3 million per account.
- Bank of Uganda developed Financial Consumer Protection Guidelines to ensure that regulated financial institutions treat their customers fairly. For example, financial institutions have to explain to you everything you need to know about their services and products.
- If there are no regulated financial institutions nearby or they don't serve your needs, you have other options to choose from:
- 2a) You can take a loan from an Microfinance Institution (MFI) which is not regulated by Bank of Uganda
Unregulated MFIs do not take savings or money from their customers but they give loans to help people start or grow small businesses.
- 2b) You can join a SACCO, save with it and take a loan from it
Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) are formed, owned and operated by the members. They are usually organized around a specific region (e.g. a parish or a district SACCO) or an activity or profession (e.g. a farmers' SACCO or a teachers' SACCO). SACCOs can only accept deposits from their members. SACCOs vary in quality and safety. It is wise to know the SACCO officers and ask other members what their experience has been before you join one. Savings at SACCOs are not insured. Every SACCO is supposed to register with the Registrar of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives which is represented by a District Cooperative Officer in each district. Check with the District Cooperative Officer to find out whether the SACCO you wish to join is registered.
- 2c) You can save and borrow with a VSLA
Voluntary Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) are small member based community groups with up to 30 members that collect savings and make small loans to their members. Only join a VSLA if you trust the other members. Make sure that your VSLA has all its activities being done openly and accountability is given to its members regularly.
- 2d) You can also save with a ROSCA
Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (merry-go-rounds) are groups where members meet regularly to make contributions that are given to a different member each month or week. Only join a ROSCA if you trust the other members.
- Be careful when borrowing from a Money Lender
Money lenders often provide quick loans - but their interest rates are very high. The security they ask for is also often very high (up to two to four times the amount of the loan) and sometimes there are other costs which are not explained at the beginning. If you fail to pay back their money as agreed, they may use tough methods to recover it. Many money lenders operate outside the law. Carefully read and understand the contract before rushing for a loan. If you decide to borrow money from a money lender, make sure he or she is licensed and has a certificate from the Magistrate in your area.
- If you want to change money, do so in a licensed Forex Bureau and check the notes you receive before leaving the Bureau
At a Forex Bureau you can change Uganda Shillings into foreign currency or vice versa. The exchange rate for different currencies can rise or fall any time. Make sure that the Forex Bureau you are dealing with has a valid license from Bank of Uganda hanging on its wall. Only that way you can be sure to get fair rates and no fake money. You should still check the notes you receive before leaving the Bureau. After changing your money, make sure you get a handwritten receipt with the Bank of Uganda logo or an electronic one that mentions approval by the Bank of Uganda.
- Send and receive money from other countries via licensed Money Remitters
Money remitters are licensed financial institutions that transfer money by a foreign worker to his or her home country or another country. They usually receive the money in the currency of the country in which they are located. For example, a Ugandan working in Great Britain would give the remitter Great Britain Pounds when making a remittance to his family in Uganda and the person receiving it would receive it in Uganda shillings. Only remit your money at a remitter who has a valid licence from the Bank of Uganda. Ask about and make sure you understand all the charges involved when making a remittance. These charges are normally displayed in the office of the money remitter. If someone has sent you a remittance, you should not be required to pay any charges.
- Make remittances using your phone (mobile money)
Money can now be remitted through your mobile phone. Ask your mobile phone company, agent or dealer how to do it and about the charges involved. These charges are normally displayed in the shop of the mobile money agent/dealer.
- Ask, Ask, Ask!
It is your financial right to know all the information about a financial product or service you wish to use. Ask for written information and keep it with you. If the financial institution or person you went to doesn't want to give you information, then they might not be the right ones for you.
- Know your financial rights
Knowing your financial rights enables you to make informed decisions and choices.
- You have a right to place a complaint and to receive a response from the institution.
- The institution has to treat you with respect and minimise the time you take to be served.
- You have a right to information about the services and products and about all the fees and charges.
- If the financial institution is not following what is written in a contract you have signed with them, you have a right to take it to court.
- A lender should not force you to borrow.
- You should be able to access your savings whenever you need them. However, money on certain savings accounts can only be accessed after a certain period, as you agreed with the financial institution.
- The information you provide to a financial institution should be kept confidential in line with the laws of Uganda. They can only share it with anyone else if you agree to it.
- No financial institution is allowed to ask you for a bribe to access any of their services or for any other purpose.