Saving is a major problem in South Africa. For a variety of reasons, the country’s people just don’t manage to do it. In fact, many South Africans go into debt on a monthly basis just to cover the cost of their groceries.
In a bid to change that, financial services giant Sanlam has joined forces with world-renowned designer, Laduma Ngxokolo in a bid to make saving not only cool, but stylish too.
Their way of doing so comes in the shape of the Mna Nam, an accessory that “becomes more valuable the more you use it”.
Worn around the wrist, the Mna Nam comes with an embedded QR code that links to a Savings Wallet on the wearer’s mobile phone.
So, when you’re out and about and you want to put some money away, all you have to do is scan the QR code.
According to Sanlam, it’s designed to make saving as easy as spending.
“The global trend is for wearable tech to solve real-world problems. In South Africa, this problem is the country’s poor savings culture,” says Yegs Ramiah, CEO Sanlam Brand. “Mna Nam helps people prepare for a healthy financial future by making saving fashionable. The purpose-led accessory offers a one-of-a-kind campaign to shift the realm of fashion into a space for responsible saving as opposed to excessive spending.”
“Mna Nam presents a beautiful, stylish solution that contributes towards improving South Africa’s poor savings culture,” he adds. “At Sanlam, we want to equip people with the tools and knowledge necessary to save for a better tomorrow. Mna Nam is an action-driven, forward-thinking campaign that’s more than just fashion.”
The Mna Nam marks Ngxolo’s first foray into combining fashion with technology, but it’s unlikely that it’ll be the last.
“I’ve just completed my master’s in Material Futures – a course which blurs the lines between design, science and tech,” Nxolo says. “In the future, designers will most probably be scientists – people who perceive opportunities for real-impact innovations that make people’s lives better. A design has to make sense and solve a problem to become iconic.”
Ensuring that the Mna Nam had proper technological integration is ad agency King James.
According to its Creative Director Matt Ross, the Mna Nam is a great example of African ingenuity:
“In Africa, we have our own set of challenges and we’re known for re-engineering technological tools to solve them. Wearable tech is very expensive and out of the reach of most – but not if you innovate on an existing platform. So, we took a widely used virtual payment app, WeChat, and flipped its primary purpose of easy spending into easy saving. Then we coupled this with an object of real beauty to be worn on the wrist and created by the country’s most forward-thinking designer, to make saving top of mind and aspirational. This is what leads to habit – a want to save.”
Convincing the public
While that’s what Sanlam is hoping to achieve with the Mna Nam, but how realistic are its chances of success?
Certainly, Sanlam has a solid history when it comes to using social experiments to change the way people think about money. Starting with One Rand Man in 2014, it’s done a great of job of educating people on how to cut back on unnecessary expenses and do a better job of saving.
The Mna Nam will be an interesting gauge of whether it can get people to actually implement those changes.
And that might not always be easy. While the Mna Nam is undoubtedly stylish, it doesn’t really pair well with gym kit, or cycling gear to list two activities that almost always end with coffee.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are already plenty of mechanisms for South Africans to save without having to scan a QR code. Most banks, for instance, allow you to bank your change on purchases made with your debit or credit card.
All of them meanwhile have smartphone apps that let you set up and add to your savings with just a few taps.
Perhaps then, its real potential is as part of a savings challenge for corporate employees, when there’s the potential for added incentives for wearing and using the accessory.
Still, it would be wrong for us to write off the Mna Nam until we’ve given it a proper go. Once we have, we’ll be sure to report back.
You can apply to get your hands on an Mna Nam of your own online.