At her food stall in the largest open-air market in Lagos, Nigeria, Amaka Charles regularly checks her cell phone for her bank account balance. She is saving for her daughter's school fees and dreaming of a loan to expand her business beyond crayfish. Every day, she passes her few dollars of profit to Celestina, the bank agent who roams the market to collect vendors' deposits. Charles calls if Celestina is late — she does not want to leave without trading her profit for the "bing" her cell phone makes each time her latest deposit is received.
Before she opened her BETA account with Diamond Bank, Charles stashed her cash in a drawer or entrusted it to an informal collector who, as part of a traditional neighborhood savings program, kept a tally of vendors' savings in a little notebook. Neither method was especially reliable or secure — Charles often feared the collector would run away with her money. Now, with Celestina and the BETA savings account, she watches her daughter's backpack bob on her way to school and plans for the future.