Course Descriptions

We will offer two week-long courses during the SMDP South Africa, which will cover Savings Groups Programme Design and Savings Group Performance Tracking using the SAVIX MIS.  Both courses are facilitated by VSL Associates

  • We will make several Mastercard Foundation Microfinance Scholar awards The Mastercard scholarship application for the SMDP South Africa face-to-face courses is now available
  • Each course features a day in the field visiting long-established and successful Savings Groups
  • Daily sessions begin at 08:30 and end by 17:00 with coffee/tea breaks and an hour for lunch.

The objectives of the courses are to:

  • Present the theoretical background to SGs
  • Visit a savings group and witness a savings and credit meeting
  • Be exposed to the different methodological approaches and training tools employed by the major implementing organizations, including a new model that is Sharia compliant
  • Receive an introduction to the SAVIX management information system, used by more than 1,000 institutions
  • Be introduced to the most successful approaches to program design that incorporates strategies and proven approaches that ensure post-project expansion of SGs through:
  • the use of community-based, for-profit trainers and
  • spontaneous multiplication of SGs through emulation and the involvement of SG members

Week One: August 26-30, 2019
Savings Groups: Introduction to the SAVIX Management Information System

Facilitators - Hugh Allen, VSL Associates Founder
Five full-day sessions, including a field visit to Plan International VSL groups on Tuesday

The VSL Associates Excel-based MIS was the most widely used in the industry for over 10 years and has been through 4 generations of development.  Based as it is on an Excel worksheet, it has, however, several practical limitations and, over the last 5 years has been superseded by the SAVIX MIS (, which is a web-server based MIS, developed by VSL Associates and Software Group, created through support from the Gates Foundation and the Mastercard Foundation.  It is hosted on the SAVIX ( website. At the present time it is used by more than 1,100 institutions in more than 75 countries, to track the performance of more than 3,300 projects, covering just over 8 million SG members in about 370,000 SGs.  The SAVIX MIS is free (and will always remain so) except for large-users of international networks.

The SAVIX MIS has the following characteristics:

  • It is web-server based, meaning that data can be entered at any internet enabled computer in any location worldwide and will accept simultaneous data entry from multiple locations and users. It will also accept data from mobile devices, allowing offline data entry
  • New upgrades to the MIS are automatic and no longer require importation of old data
  • Data and software are unaffected by viruses
  • It allows projects to post directly to the SAVIX website (, without being part of a facilitating agency network (one of the major limitations of the Excel-based version)
  • Error correction takes place in real time and illogical data cannot be entered into the system, while questionable data is automatically flagged for review
  • The system is built on a relational database, meaning that sophisticated analysis is now possible at the project level
  • At the users discretion, the data is automatically posted to the SAVIX, thus relieving programs of the need to create data files and manually upload to the SAVIX
  • It allows project metrics to be compared to national, sub-regional. regional and worldwide norms, derived from the SAVIX website
  • It allows MIS administrators to create networks of projects in which aggregation of results or project comparisons can be conducted

The course is comprised of the following elements:

  • Architecture of the MIS
  • MIS setup and the creation of multiple projects in a single MIS
  • Creation of MIS user-defined fields
  • Data entry (including on Android and iOS)
  • Report preparation and printing
  • Report analysis and application to management
  • Creation of national and international networks of projects, across different MIS instances

The course is a companion to the first week’s course, but is designed principally for practitioners who are already implementing an SG program or who intend to do so.

Participants must come with a reasonably capable laptop, with wireless internet capability and with the registry recently defragmented. Please do NOT bring along an older computer that has a slow processor or one that has not recently been maintained, since this may slow down the process of configuration and data entry. The system runs equally well on a PC or a Mac. Please be aware that South Africa has a unique electrical plug standard and that adaptors to this will be necessary, so be sure to bring an appropriate adaptor or pick one up at the airport on arrival.

Week Two: September 2-6, 2019
Savings Groups: Programme Design and Implementation Management

Facilitator – Hugh Allen of VSL Associates Associate and the staff of SaveAct
Five full-day sessions, including a field visit to Plan International VSL groups on Tuesday

It is becoming generally accepted that conventional microfinance approaches are best suited to assisting emerging micro-entrepreneurs who are usually already in business and who live in or close to urban settlements.  For the most part, however they have been unable to reach the majority of the rural poor (particularly in Africa) with a suite of appropriate financial services. This is owing to cost of reaching them and the relatively limited debt capacity of the poorest. In addition, there is an increasing awareness of the primary importance of savings services, which most MFIs do not provide, and when they do, cannot provide an attractive return.  By contrast Savings Groups (SGs) can operate profitably in the most remote areas; are immediately sustainable and provide very high average returns on savings as well as flexible, convenient and accessible loans.  Their self-management and self-capitalizing capabilities provide them with decisive cost advantages compared to more conventional approaches that depend on the creation and survival of formal institutions

SGs are community-based, self-managed groups, in which members mobilize and manage their own savings, investing this money in a loan fund from which they can borrow in amounts as small as $1. This approach is proving to be low cost, highly sustainable, and extremely profitable for the member-owners and achieving significant massive scale.  It is estimated that SGs are now established in more than 75 countries worldwide, reaching more than 13 million members in about 600,000 groups.

The SG methodology is also promoted by most of the major international development agencies, including CARE, CRS, Oxfam, World Vision, Plan International and the Aga Khan Foundation. 

The objectives of the course are to:

  • Present the theoretical background to community-managed microfinance
  • Visit a savings group and witness a savings and credit meeting
  • Be exposed to the methodological approaches and training tools employed by the major implementing organizations
  • Receive a basic introduction to the SAVIX MIS, the most widely used tracking system for SG projects, worldwide
  • Offer approaches to evaluation and results of impact studies
  • Be introduced to an MS Excel based SG Programme Design Tool