Damulira Henry remembers scrimping and saving as a child. Like three-quarters of people in developing and middle-income countries, he didn’t have a bank account and could never seem to reach his savings goals. Between loss, theft, destruction, or temptation, trying to hoard physical cash can be a risky business. But Henry didn’t think it should be.
Decades later, he is the founder and executive director of AirSave Uganda, which won second place at the Africa Startup Cup in 2016. AirSave lets people digitally stow away money, accessing their banking system by way of a simple phone call on a mobile line. No Internet required. Users designate set saving periods, from 1 to 12 months, and the banks with whom AirSave Uganda is partnered hold the secure deposits. The program, which began in a single church and now reaches 4 million people across 40,000 parishes, is making saving easier, helping to eliminate poverty, and doing the critical work of building trust between the unbanked and the traditional banking system.