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LINK Up aimed to link 10,000 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) with formal financial institutions in order to build financial inclusion in Kenya and Tanzania, assess how access to formal financial services impacted VSLAs and their members, and determine whether serving such groups presented a viable business case for financial service providers.


Saving groups are recognized as a vital entry point to formal financial services, and there is high demand from groups to protect and grow their savings with formal financial institutions. CARE has been working with banks, mobile networks, and micro-finance institutions to co-create innovative and scalable models that help savings groups access appropriate and affordable financial services.


Through the LINK Up project, CARE partnered with four private banks to create financial products that worked for Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) members. These fast and low-cost prototypes were an important way to convince the banks that working with poor rural women was worth it. With these new products, the banks and CARE conducted joint outreach campaigns to help VSLAs self-identify as interested in opening accounts. Training and support were provided to interested groups to teach them how to use the products and navigate the process of opening an account.

Members who had their savings in a formal bank account made $40-$55 more per month

increase in women’s control over financial resources

increase in women’s control over financial resources


At the end of the LINK Up project, women participants were 15% more likely to have decision-making power in taking out a loan, either on her own or with a partner. Sixteen out of 20 women participants in CARE-linked savings groups had savings, in comparison with two out of an average 20 from the wider community. Business also improved for banks; they opened 93,000 new accounts, got an increased $2.4 million in deposits, and made up to $14 per bank account.

Savings group members who had their savings in a formal bank account made $40 to $55 more per member than those without an account. Women’s control over financial resources increased by 45%, and their involvement in household decisions increased by 19%.

The importance of LINK Up

With CARE’s involvement, LINK Up was able to change banks’ perspectives on rural women and VSLAs, causing them to be viewed as a viable customer base.

LINK Up Final Report

This report focuses on the potential of linkages between formal financial services and savings groups to create change for the savings groups, banks, and households.

Read the report on CARE Evaluations