At the Joe Bar Market, market women like yellow
In the Joe Bar Market on the Old Road, the stalls follow one another neatly, displaying local delicacies like colorful embroidery on rotting-wood-plank canvas.
If you have been there this year and you had to think of a color associated to this place, your mind would probably respond yellow without hesitation. Yellow has become the dominant color in the market since market women started accepting mobile money.
This is the outcome the “MoMo Angel Campaign” pilot launched by Lonestar Cell MTN to recruit and train women as agents and merchants in the marketplace.
The campaign was inspired by the #DFS4Women event organized by The UN Capital Development Fund’ s programme MM4P last October 2016, which saw in the Lonestar Mobile Money Senior Manager Massa Dennis an active participant.
During the conference, concrete examples fueled the discussion around the barriers that prevent women from accessing mobile money at the same rates as men, and why women agents are crucial to reach women customers. The challenges that women agents face were also addressed, with testimony of how other countries were working to remove them. At the end of the event, participants were asked to come up with solutions themselves, through an ad hoc ideation session. That is when Massa Dennis started drafting her first ideas for a new agent strategy in Liberia.
In December 2016, she shared Lonestar’s intentions with the UNCDF MM4P local Digital Finance Expert Ali Akram: “UNCDF has provided tremendous support to the growth and expansion of mobile money in Liberia. Through the technical assistance of MM4P, we have been able to sign on some major bulk payments deals, most notably, the Civil servants payments with five key ministries set to kick off in Q1 2017. We will be launching the “MoMo Market Women” Initiative in January 2017 which was an outcome of the Digital Finance for Women Conference I attended in October organized by UNCDF”.
MoMo Angel is now reality and hit the news.
Heavily branded, the campaign is built around three value-proposition pillars:
- When a market woman performs a minimum of 20 transactions monthly valued LD$1,500 (US$16), she qualifies for an educational assistance of LD$2,000 (US$21) against the receipt of a previous educational payment for one of her dependents, preferably a girl;
- A market woman agent gets LD$ 470 (USD$5) for every other market woman she is able to recruit;
- A market woman aspiring to be an agent is asked for a minimum start-up capital of LD$5,000 (US$53) instead of the legally required LD$20,000 (US$ 213).
With this initiative, Lonestar is clearly setting a trend in the wider marketplace of financial service providers. “Our market women initiative is geared towards empowering, giving them the means to save their money conveniently to realize their daily income without difficulties. […] We registered them for mobile money, where they can easily pay for the market through the same mobile money, in order for them to know this, we provided one-month extensive training for these women to be able to use mobile money, and its benefits. […] We have 10 agents at this Old Road market where these women can have access to mobile money services, we have also set up a platform where an agent can bring her friend”, explained Massa Dennis to the media at the launch event.
This initiative comes in the back drop of a country that is just emerging from devastations of the Ebola virus disease that plunged Liberia into economic crisis, and subsequent contraction of the banking sector. Only an estimated 30 percent of the country’s adult population own a bank account with a formal financial institution and limited access to financial services constrains recovery of the economy.
Women play a critical role in the country’s economy, constituting 47 percent of Liberia’s labor force and undertaking key roles in the agricultural and informal sector, either as producers or running small-scale business. As digital financial services gain traction in Liberia, it can be a potent tool in expanding and enhancing women’s economic roles in the country’s fragile economy by providing them a means to access savings, loans and insurance products.
On International Women’s day, MM4P commits to continue supporting initiatives towards women economic empowerment and gender equality, not just in Liberia but across the nine countries the programme currently covers.
From Skeptic to a Believer: HCD & Silicon Valley Tools to Improve DFS
This blog post is the first of a series dedicated to the lessons UNCDF MM4P learned in applying HCD methods introduced by Tillman Bruett in this previous post.
I came to MM4P as a skeptic of human centered design (HCD) – this buzzword/acronym was all the rage as I left Washington DC from my former job. When I went to the workshops describing HCD work in financial inclusion, I came away feeling like the work done didn’t really amount to much, and didn’t really have a lasting impact on the people that we want to be more financially included.
Enter 17 Triggers to the stage – UNCDF-MM4P searched around the world for the best HCD firms they could find, and best-in-class they are. Working with them completely changed my mind about using Silicon Valley, iterative testing models. They changed my mind because of two things.
First, their very tactile, very visual methodology of “Vision of Perfect Workshops”, combined with UNCDF’s local market knowledge, forced all the major stakeholders from the top to the operational to sit together and a) discuss the assumptions behind the project and the state of the market; and b) together, decide and agree on what the end goals are for the project and c) how we would measure success. This sounds so simple—don’t all projects do this? No, they don’t. We assume everyone has read the reams of documentation that is produced before we begin implementation – they either never read it, read an old version, or they have forgotten.
Second, is their commitment to living and working in the field while researching a customer or agent’s experience, iteratively testing either product design or marketing design of products. At times, they almost served as a booster team to the service provider – quickly iterating on training, on communication to agents, on channeling concerns of service provider stakeholders – and problem solving. Based on their iterative testing-driven insights, we created on-demand incredibly useful tools that solved the small problems of poor communication with stakeholders (like sub-agents/tellers) that are often ignored in digital financial services implementation by providers.
The buy-in and insights that come from both of these pieces of human centered design methodology had immediate impact on the two providers we have worked with. With every report we gave – whether it was on successes/challenges on product design, system problems, or training missteps, the providers met the feedback head on and immediately re-aligned resources to address problems. And that’s when you know you’ve made impact – when a service provider makes lasting changes within their organization that tailors what they’ve learned to accelerate what they want to achieve.
Together, we are supporting our Zambian digital finance providers on how to test, launch and scale products – using a Silicon Valley approach. We are not only opening minds about what truly a customer or agent faces in their journey to be a “power user” or “power agent”, we are also testing liquidity models never tested before. Our goal is to create a massive change in the Zambian market, resulting in every financial service provider believing that taking this approach is the “new normal”.
What we learned on our journey to customer centricity
There has been a lot of “buzz” in the past five years around how human-centered design (HCD) and customer centricity can make digital finance more inclusive. The entrance of large mobile network operators and technology savvy funders into financial inclusion brought with it new specialized consulting firms with deep expertise in product design, data analytics and marketing. At UNCDF we have been watching and learning from these efforts as well as looking at a variety of successful campaigns in developing countries focused on influencing behavior. We tend to be a bit cautious about “the next big thing.” Our preferred method is to watch and learn first, with hope and skepticism and then focus on a different type of innovation—how this “next big thing” can work in our markets.
Two years ago we brought over 120 partners and colleagues from countries around the world to Uganda, rented a small fleet of buses, and took them to rural Uganda. With a half day of training, they were instructed how to conduct interviews with customers and agents, create “personas” and map their experiences in digital finance. It was a logistical nightmare, ended at midnight for some, involved a lot of terribly drawn stick figures (mine in particular), and turned out to be the highlight of the event. I remember happily listening to a young Laotian banker share her notes with a Liberian mobile money manager somewhere on the outskirts of Jinja and thinking that this was our first lesson learned. The power of HCD was getting the partner to directly engage with customer—and be able to talk about it with someone who cared.
In the past few years we’ve focused on how to use some of these tools with our partners drawing on a range of firms including 17 Triggers, In8motion, MicroSave, PHB Development and IDEO to name a few. An advantage we have is that our team sits in country and can be not only part of the engagement with these firms, but also be with our partners before, during and after the field work.
In a series of blogs from UNCDF in field, we wanted to share some of experiences so far using different methods, partners and projects from Samoa to Senegal. The series will look at applying human centered design approaches to problems around products, agents and digitizing payments streams. We’ll compare different methods from more “traditional” customer research to “alternative” approaches and in each we’ll highlight at least one of our lessons learned. We humbly hope that you find something of value for your own work.
Digitizing social security allowances in Nepal
This post is the first of three looking at the digitization of social security benefit grants in Nepal. It provides the background of the country’s social security allowance (SSA) programme and describes how the current method of payment works.
Geography may not be destiny, as the saying goes, but when it comes to financial inclusion, it is definitely a key determinant. Nepal, with its rugged landscape and poor infrastructure, is a case in point. As discussed in a previous post, the lack of brick-and-mortar banks and other financial institutions in rural areas is a major obstacle to achieving universal financial access. Today, 61 percent of the population is formally financially included, but this South Asian country presents infrastructural challenges that compound the socioeconomic marginalization of large swathes of the population. While the State relies heavily on foreign aid, private households find a vital lifeline in the flow of international remittances, which account for 32 percent of GDP. As 25 percent of the population lives on US$1.25 per day, the national social protection programme plays a critical role in sustaining livelihoods and smoothing consumption among the poorest.
In December 1994, the Government of Nepal began making SSA payments to senior citizens, those above the age of 75. Over time, the pool of beneficiaries has been gradually expanded to include other categories of beneficiaries, namely single women, children, widows, disabled persons and Janajatis (members of endangered ethnic groups). The total SSA budget currently amounts to Nr17 billion (~$156 million) per year, and it is expected to be doubled soon. Payments range between Nr200 and Nr1000 (~$2 and $9), delivered three times per year to 2.36 million beneficiaries, distributed across the country’s mountain, hill and terai (plain) regions (see table).
Snapshot of social security allowance transfer
a Individuals may not receive more than one transfer and are ineligible if they already receive a salary or pension from the Government.
b Although the benefit amounts are described in monthly terms, the money is aggregated and delivered three times per year by VDCs and municipalities.
c As explained on the Dalit Welfare Organization website, ‘Dalit are defined as “those communities who, by virtue of atrocities of caste-based discrimination and untouchability, are most backward in social, economic, educational, political and religious fields, and are deprived of human dignity and social justice."’
d The Supreme Court of Nepal recently ruled that all widows, regardless of age, should be eligible for this allowance. To date, this ruling has not yet been implemented.
e MoFALD allocates quotas by district for partial disability beneficiaries. Decisions are made by the Social Security District Coordination Committee in cases where the number of applicants for the partial disability grant exceeds the district quota.
f There are 59 officially recognized Janajati (indigenous) groups in Nepal. Out of these, 10 have been identified as endangered and are eligible for the grant.
Social security benefit grants are currently delivered manually to beneficiaries in cash through a complex institutional framework. The process begins with the 3,276 Village Development Committees (VDCs) and 191 municipalities in 75 District Development Committees (DDCs). VDCs are in charge of enrolling beneficiaries, or renewing the applications of beneficiaries, and submitting them to DDCs, which in turn forward summary reports to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD). On the basis of the budget prepared by MoFALD, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) allocates the funds and reconciles the reports.
The process is divided into six steps: communication with existing/prospective beneficiaries to renew/enrol; application process; deregistration of the deceased and others; issuance of beneficiary passbook/identity card; fund disbursement; and reporting and reconciliation (see figure).
Process flow for social security allowance payments
This manual process to deliver SSA payments, which comes at an annual cost of Nr1.327 billion (~$12 million), presents both advantages and disadvantages.
The two major benefits of manual disbursement of SSA payments derive from the familiarity of beneficiaries with VDC and DDC officials, who are primarily responsible for disbursing the payments and carrying out development work in the areas under their jurisdiction. First, since VDCs and DDCs can rely on the administrative infrastructure already in place, there is no need to set up a separate chain of operations. Second, VDC officials can use the pre-existing channels of communication not only to reach out to beneficiaries but also to receive feedback and complaints to be forwarded to the upper echelons. The personal relationship built over time between officials and beneficiaries is particularly relevant for specific segments, such as senior citizens. Indeed, not only do VDC officials verify the age of applicants, which is the determining factor for eligibility, from the citizenship card, but they also assist eligible beneficiaries in completing the application form.
On the other hand, the manual payment system presents many challenges. To begin with, a manual process for data collection, data entry, record keeping, report preparation and benefit disbursement is cumbersome and prone to errors. It creates a heavy workload for VDC and DDC officials, who are therefore diverted from other tasks, and increases the risk that resources might ‘slip through the cracks’ because of the lack of proper control mechanisms. It also exposes the system’s vulnerability to inefficiencies and fund misuse, by hindering the identification of ghost beneficiaries and leakages. On top of that, because of the remoteness of the areas in which most beneficiaries reside, cash distribution to VDCs and fund disbursement can be delayed, sowing discontent among beneficiaries. As a result, in the medium/long-term, trust in the system can erode, thus undercutting the legitimacy of the institutional actors involved.
A question then arises: how can the efficiency of the system be improved while costs are contained?
The next blog post will describe how MoFALD, supported by the World Bank and United Nations Capital Development Fund and in partnership with local banks, are addressing this issue.
March 2017. Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved.
The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.
M-Dorado : réalité ou mythe ?
Avez-vous déjà entendu parler de M-dorado? Le paradis du tout-numérique, ou les services financiers digitaux transforment – améliorent – le quotidien des populations, permettent de faire des affaires plus facilement et à moindre coût, imposent la transparence au grand dam de la corruption et de la mauvaise gouvernance. Sans aller vite en besogne, on peut dire que l’Afrique est en -bon- chemin pour M-dorado. Prenez le Kenya : en 2015, plus de 15 millions de compte de monnaie électronique M-Pesa actifs, plus de 58% de la population adulte a un portemonnaie électronique. D’aucuns citeraient même que plus de 43% du Produit Intérieur Brut (PIB) du Kenya transite à travers le système de paiement M-Pesa, le portemonnaie électronique offert par l’opérateur téléphonique Safaricom. Aujourd’hui, on peut faire tant avec M-Pesa au Kenya : acheter des unités pour son téléphones, envoyer de l’argent, payer la plupart de ses factures, faire des achats, emprunter de l’argent ou en retirer pour faire des dépenses en espèce.
Le Bénin, comme la majorité des pays africains, n’est pas le Kenya. Mais, la révolution numérique est bel et bien en marche! Tenez, le 19 Janvier dernier, Cotonou a accueilli la première rencontre de l’année du groupe de travail sur la finance digitale. Ce forum de discussion et de partage d’expérience sur les services financiers digitaux a été mis en place par le programme UNCDF-MM4P sous la présidence du Ministère de l’économie et des finances et la coprésidence de la BCEAO Nationale. En matière de finance digitale, le Benin est en train d’amorcer une phase d’expansion des services. En 2015, plus d’un million de compte de monnaie électronique étaient enregistrés sur le marché avec un taux d’utilisation actif de plus 30%.
Ce forum du groupe de travail a accueilli la crème de l’industrie: régulateurs des services financiers et des télécommunications, opérateurs mobiles, institutions de microfinance, banques, etc… ; signe que l’intérêt porté à la question de la finance digitale n’est plus à démontrer. Autre signe rarement trompeur : l’intensité et la richesse des échanges. La rencontre a débuté par une session sur les fondamentaux de la finance digitale pour s’accorder sur ce que les expressions et anglicismes signifient. Une mise au point sur les définitions qui a été suivi d’une séance sur le cadre réglementaire. Les participants se sont penchés sur ce que la loi au sein de l’UEMOA permet en matière de paiements digitaux et sur les conditions et modalités d'exercice de l'activité des émetteurs de monnaie électronique en passant par la réglementation bancaire au Bénin et la réglementation des SFD au Bénin pour finir par la lutte contre le financement du terrorisme en République du Bénin et la lutte contre le blanchiment des capitaux.
Enfin, il y a eu une discussion extrêmement riche sur le potentiel des services financiers digitaux comme levier d’inclusion financière ; comment accélérer l’émergence de nouveaux modèles de partenariat et de produits pour mieux servir les besoins des clients et faciliter l’adoption des service financiers digitaux par les couches vulnérables de la population ?
Les échanges ont aussi abordé les freins à l’adoptions des services financiers digitaux pour focaliser notamment sur la peur des utilisateurs en cas d’erreur (comment récupérer son argent si on l’envoie par erreur à un mauvais numéro ?), ou encore la protection contre les cybers criminels. On a entendu beaucoup de propositions : mesures d’accompagnement pour la gestion des réclamations, amélioration des menus et fonctionnalités gérant les transferts d’un téléphone mobile à l’autre, partenariat avec les services de police en charge de la cybercriminalité, ou encore campagnes de sensibilisation.
Fait très appréciable: les discussions ont débouché sur la proposition de créer des sous-commissions pour aller jusqu’au bout de ces réflexions et, lors de la prochaine rencontre du groupe de travail sur la finance digitale, de présenter des recommandations et plan d’actions concrets pour démystifier l’utilisation de la monnaie électronique, doper son adoption et garantir la sécurité des usagers.
En avant pour M-dorado!!!
DFS are not new. What is new is the focus on how to promote the use of DFS to improve financial inclusion. This RDT provides a framework for regulators to analyse their regulation regimes in order to identify barriers and/or remove gaps to DFS adoption and to promote financial inclusion.
Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) est un programme international lancé par l’UNCDF en partenariat avec l’Agence suédoise de coopération internationale au développement (SIDA), l’Agence australienne pour le développement international (DFAT), la Fondation Bill & Melinda Gates et The MasterCard Foundation. MM4P apporte son soutien au développement de la finance digitale dans un groupe spécifique de pays parmi les moins avancés. A travers ce programme, UNCDF démontre qu’un soutien optimal au niveau financier, technique, institutionnel et réglementaire peut aider au développement d'un écosystème de la finance digitale robuste et accessible aux personnes à faibles revenus dans ces pays. Pour plus d'informations, rendez-vous sur https://mm4p.uncdf.org et suivez @UNCDFMM4P and Mobile Money for The Poor
Dans les pays en développement, moins d'1 personne sur 5 a accès aux banques et encore moins utilisent régulièrement un compte.
L’UNCDF est l’Agence d’investissement des Nations unies pour les 48 pays les moins avancés du monde (PMA). Dans le cadre de son mandat de fourniture de capitaux et d’instruments d’investissement, l’UNCDF offre des modèles de financement du « last mile » permettant de débloquer les ressources publiques et privées, notamment au niveau national, afin de réduire la pauvreté et d’encourager le développement économique local. L’UNCDF s’appuie sur deux modèles de financement : l’inclusion financière, axée sur l’épargne, qui permet aux individus, aux ménages et aux petites entreprises de participer davantage à l’économie locale, en mettant à leur disposition les outils dont ils ont besoin pour sortir de la pauvreté et gérer leur situation financière ; et les investissements localisés – grâce à la décentralisation fiscale, au financement municipal novateur et au financement structuré de projets –, qui contribuent au financement public et privé sous-tendant la croissance économique locale et le développement durable. En renforçant l’accessibilité financière des personnes pauvres au niveau des ménages, des petites entreprises et des infrastructures locales, l’UNCDF contribue à la réalisation du premier objectif de développement durable, et le 17e objectif de développement durable, relatif au renforcement des moyens de mise en oeuvre. En identifiant les segments de marché dans lesquels les modèles de financement novateurs peuvent foncièrement faciliter le financement du « last mile », l’UNCDF contribue à la réalisation de plusieurs objectifs de développement durable.
Ideation session #1 - Digging deeper into bulk payments transactions for uptake and usage by women
Ideation session #2 - Improving agent networks with and for women
Ideation session #3 - Creating or improving financial services for women acquisition
Inspiring session - Digital solutions for a better life