Albertina Chirindza, 42, is a single mother of four living in Maputo, Mozambique. When she separated from the father of her children, she had one main goal: support her children.
In a historically male-dominated society, Albertina knew raising four children alone would be no easy task.
How, though, was she going to do that?
Peanuts for Profit
Initially, Albertina’s mother encouraged her to sell roasted peanuts. She managed to make a weekly profit of 500 meticais (approximately $9).
But Albertina needed to do more for her children, and so she joined a xitique, a traditional savings mechanism in Mozambique that relies on group members to collectively contribute every month and take turns withdrawing monthly contributions.
It was helpful, but Albertina notes, “the social events around the savings group made me spend more money than expected.” She also had no formal contract or recourse if the group did not return her money.
Her traditional bank account was also frustrating, as she would have to close her shop to go wait in long lines at the bank to withdraw cash.
Then at the start of 2021, after recently switching to M-Pesa, a digital money transfer service, Albertina saw a television commercial about a new digital financial product they were offering with the same name as her savings group: Xitique.
The new savings tool connected to her digital M-Pesa account, and would allow her to create small, short-term savings that fit her business and personal needs. It seemed flexible, easy-to-use, and made just for people like her.
And in fact, it had been.
TechnoServe’s Recommendations Help Women Users
The latest version of the Xitique product was, in part, a result of recommendations from a TechnoServe team working to improve women’s empowerment in Mozambique through more inclusive business models.
Through the Women IN Business (WIN) program, funded by the Swedish Embassy, TechnoServe works with local private sectors to show them how gender-inclusive businesses are more likely to reach a wider, more diverse customer base, leading to higher revenue and improved company reputation.
By helping M-Pesa make its products more accessible and inclusive, TechnoServe knew women like Albertina could more easily get financing for their businesses – and M-Pesa would get more customers. Win-win.
For the Xitique product, TechnoServe conducted a market analysis of 150 low-income people – 70% women – in Maputo who used the digital savings platform.
With this understanding of customers’ needs and behaviors, the TechnoServe team suggested improvements to the Xitique platform that would better serve low-income women like Albertina.
Several months after the new Xitique version launched, the TechnoServe team conducted an impact study to learn how effective the product updates had been. They found that 75% of women users who noticed the changes from TechnoServe believed these allowed them to save more. And in general, changes to the new product contributed to an increase of about 40% more women and 29% more men using the product.
What It Means for Women in Mozambique
Albertina loved the new Xitique product. She didn’t have to leave her shop to make a deposit; she didn’t have to worry about contributing funds on days when her income was low; and she could easily access her money when she needed it.
Critically for women, the account keeps their incomes safe from thieves. “Often with the traditional Xitique, the day you receive your money you are afraid of being robbed,” says Albertina.
After several rounds of saving on the Xitique platform, Albertina felt confident enough to try to diversify her business. She started selling tomatoes, which had a low profit margin, but enabled her to consistently provide dinner for her children.
As time went on, the business grew, and she started selling fruit imported from South Africa. Albertina was the only one selling these products in the area besides supermarkets, and demand shot up.
Now, she has grown her income enough to feel more secure about her children’s future. She has now saved enough money to pay for her daughter to attend college next year, and for her son to launch his own micro-enterprise.
Years ago, when Albertina left her husband, she left her house behind too. With greater income, she recently bought a plot of land, upon which she plans to build a house of her very own.
“I hope that future generations can be different,” she says, “where they are more independent and able to make their own decisions without being influenced by the family or husband.”
For her part, she says, she feels proud to think of how she went “in such a short time, from selling peanuts to being able to support my children and dreaming of a better future: having a fixed grocery shop and a house of my own.”