Partner Event - Sept 2018
Solutions from the front lines
Agent networks, while expanding in Zambia, continue to face daily challenges with liquidity management. Airtel Money, one of the prominent mobile money operators in Zambia, is no exception to this issue. With the support of the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s Mobile Money For the Poor programme (UNCDF MM4P), Airtel Money set out to test novel float management solutions that would enable their agents to deal with their liquidity challenges.
Finding the right mountain to climb
MM4P and Airtel Money Zambia commissioned a team from 17 Triggers to map agent and customer journeys, digging deeper to uncover the reasons behind their behaviors and motivations around the usage of mobile money.
Airtel Money wanted to find how to increase uptake and usage of their service. While the customer and agent journeys lead the team to identify several major challenges to the uptake and usage of services, one of the consistent underlying issues was agent liquidity. The investigative trail with agents kept leading the research team back to their chief complaints about low customer traffic and difficulty accessing float when needed. MM4P and Airtel Money both agreed that liquidity was the right problem to focus on and decided to take the “inside-out” approach to problem solving, by involving those affected by the problem in the development and testing of proposed solutions. In a whirlwind of activity, they quickly set about working with the agents in Chipata to co-create their own solutions. These solutions were then tested by a different group of agents, also located in Chipata.
An agent who was about to give up
Billy is one of the agents who has been working with Airtel Money for some time. He is a tall, soft-spoken man in his early 30s with immaculately kept hair, who runs a dreadlocks salon in the heart of Kapata market. In his free time, he hosts a radio show at the local station. By the time the MM4P and 17 Triggers research team arrived at the doorstep of his salon, Billy was ready to quit being an Airtel Money agent.
“I started working as an agent two years ago. I liked the idea of being able to provide additional services to my customers and help them.”
But a series of changes to the overall distribution of float had left him high and dry, and disillusioned. His main problem, he told the research team, was that he was too busy to leave his shop to go to the bank and top up his balance when he was running low. When he runs out of float, it is not only bad for business but Billy feels that it reflects poorly on him with his current clientele. What was the point of continuing with Airtel Money, he wondered, if nothing had been done so far to solve his problems?
A simple question, and the freedom to ask it
A few days later Billy found himself shaking hands with a few of his fellow agents in Chipata, some of whom he was meeting for the first time. They stood facing a large blank wall, armed with colorful post-its, and a simple question: “what if…”. What if they could solve the very problems that were plaguing them?
Gathered around the cabana hut, the agents were soon absorbed in their thoughts, forgetting the hot Zambian sun as they scribbled ideas down, hesitating but then gaining courage and speed as their facilitators reminded them that they were after quantity, not quality, and that every idea, however small or improbable, was welcome. Billy watched as the blank piece of manila paper stuck on the wall quickly filled up with ideas, transforming all the agents present from helpless complainers into “solutionists”.
Many of the ideas were fun and borderline ridiculous – that was intentional. Creativity does not flow from a tap, it often springs to life when reacting to other ideas, especially when those ideas feel outrageous. Many of the ideas were simple, a lot were downright practical, and the agents found themselves nodding in satisfaction. Suddenly there was a strong possibility that their voices could be heard.
Airtel Money was excited by what they saw emerge from the co-creation session with agents. They had had their share of solutions launched from spreadsheets and boardrooms, and they decided to explore the float solutions that their front liners were proposing by testing them out immediately.
Tips for effective ideation sessions
Participatory design is a process of involving the very people whom you are designing for in solving the problem at hand. By respecting and harnessing the experience of the people who have to regularly deal with the problem, design teams can uncover deeper and richer insights and solutions a lot faster. When structured and properly executed, design sessions can help the target audience focus on what they want to achieve, and accelerate and refine ideas before implementing them.
If you are going to try this on your own projects, here are a few key points for making the most out of your ideation session:
- Reframe the problem carefully. A weak-sounding problem statement will leave people uninspired, but a too-bold problem statement may take people too far out of their comfort zone. Take the time to get to the core of the problem, and turn it into a worthy, workable challenge that invites solutions.
- Quantity first, over quality. Drawing ideas out of people who are not used to the format takes practice. The need for quantity helps participants push past the first obvious solutions to delve into the often unexplored fringes of the problem.
- Avoid judgment. To encourage ideas, hold back both praise and criticism, otherwise this creates an impression of what is expected, and participants will try to find ideas that fit into those boundaries. Accept all ideas, push for more, and save the judgement for later when it’s time to refine.
After the session, keep the momentum going by reviewing the generated ideas to find which are feasible, what aspects of other ideas can be used, and build on those. Ideation sessions with the front liners will help you get perspective on the issue that you could have missed, giving you a strong indication of how your target users think and what they will positively react to.
A brighter future for agents
Alfred is the territory sales manager for the Eastern province including Chipata. He watched with great interest as the float experiments unfolded. Having moved to the region three years earlier, his hard-working manner and friendly disposition had made him a popular and well-recognized figure in town. Alfred knows each agent personally and feels responsible for each of them, so he was delighted to see their enthusiasm. He noted how small actions lead to big change, like how simple meetings such as this gave agents the opportunity to voice their suggestions and made them feel part of the business.
“They [the agents] have a voice on how they want things done. And even when we [Airtel] bring things onboard that they should adopt, they will be comfortable with it because they know that they were part and parcel of the design. Unlike where something is just brought to them and they simply have to accept it.”
As MM4P and 17 Triggers prepared to wrap up the behavioral trial and report back to Airtel Money with their findings, they asked Billy what he thought about it all. In the space of a few weeks, they had watched him come back from the brink of quitting. Business was slowly picking up, and he was forming a new view of Airtel Money and his fellow agents. He was no longer as concerned about float - in fact he had his sights on something bigger, beyond his own needs.
“This [being an agent] is a good way of creating employment, if you look at how many young graduates are jobless and how many of them are sitting in bars drinking at this time because they do not have options. I would love to see Airtel tapping into these school leavers, help give them a chance.”
Other changes we observed might be small to those sitting in boardrooms but are incredibly rewarding and can change the intrinsic inspiration and motivation to become – and stay – an agent.
“When you look at it, we [the agents] should not be looking at each other as competitors, we should be looking at each other as – you know – one family.” Billy smiled. “My favorite part of all this is that I made some friends.”
So, co-creation. Then what?
Challenges will always crop up in any situation, and for MM4P, supporting their partners to identify the right problem to work on is a key first step for any project. Participatory design through ideating and co-creating with the very people who are affected can lead to creative and insight-driven solutions with better outcomes, and stronger buy-in and ownership.
What happens after ideation – testing the proposed solutions – is just as critical. Stay tuned for the next blog where we will continue to share lessons learned from the field.
By Uloma Ogba, UNCDF MM4P, and Kim Chaterjee, 17 Triggers
Money falling from the sky
A small UNCDF team is driving on dirt roads for hours to get to Mwenge Tea Estate, one of the largest such estates in the country. Every now and then the team passes a small trading centre with a few signposts for mobile money agents. The nearest tea estate is a 30-minute drive away, a distance that most tea workers need to cover twice a month on foot to send some of their earnings back home, to family living in another part of the country or even abroad.
About 8,000 people work on six McLeod Russel tea estates, including Mwenge, located around Fort Portal in Western Uganda. Two times per month, pluckers, weeders and sorters receive their salary payment in cash. To pay these employees, who don’t have access to a bank account, McLeod Russel charters a small aircraft to distribute the cash needed. Bags of money are dropped out of the plane onto each of the six McLeod Russel estates.
The money bags are then collected and taken to administrative offices on each of the estates, where a team counts the money, puts it into small brown envelopes and finally pays the employees—a process that is lengthy and stressful. On paydays, regular security forces are supported by extra police officers to secure the whole process.
As soon as workers start queuing for their salary payment, a small market emerges outside of the estate gates. Local women sell vegetables and fruits, while boda-boda motor taxis are ready to take people to the nearest trading centres. Most workers have to find their way to a mobile money agent to send some of their earnings back home, to pay a family member’s school fees for example.
It is on these tea estates that UNCDF, together with McLeod Russel, is piloting the digitization of salary payments. Since April, tea workers can volunteer to receive their salary through mobile money instead of by cash. Slowly but surely more and more people are signing up. For some workers it is the first time they are using mobile money, and some have difficulty understanding how the transaction works. What is more, the use of mobile money services is not completely free of charge, so workers also need to understand and agree with the transaction costs.
But once these challenges are overcome, receiving their payment on their mobile phone can save the workers a lot of time, money and stress: time queuing to receive their pay, time and money travelling to the nearest village to send money back home, and worry about their safety, as travelling with two weeks’ pay can be very risky. As for McLeod Russel, paying employees digitally greatly reduces the stress and cost associated with handling vast amounts of cash and keeps workers focused on actually plucking, weeding and sorting tea on paydays, rather than on waiting to receive their salary in cash. It is a huge benefit for all parties.
Over coming months, this UNCDF pilot on digitizing bulk payments within the tea value chain will roll out to three of the six McLeod Russel estates. Results, success stories and lessons learned will be shared here. As the team travels back to Fort Portal this week, they will talk to some of the many migrant workers on the estates, who send a large part of their pay to neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.
By Bram Peters and Naomi de Groot, UNCDF MM4P in Uganda.
Plan stratégique 2017 de MM4P au Bénin
Le secteur de la finance digitale au Bénin, largement dominé par les opérateurs de téléphonie mobile (OTM), est en pleine expansion. On comptait près de 400 000 utilisateurs actifs de services financiers numériques en 2015, selon les statistiques de la Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO), avec une nette amélioration sur la connaissance des services mobile money et une progression du taux d’activité des clients.
Le marché est en phase de démarrage, avec en perspective des partenariats entre les OTM et les institutions financières et surtout le lancement de nouvelles formes de solution par les banques et institutions de microfinance à l’horizon. Impliquer le Gouvernement dans la mise en œuvre des projets en finance digitale devient donc la meilleure façon d’impulser une dynamique au secteur de la finance digitale et d’aboutir à des résultats concrets.
C’est dans cette optique que le programme de l’UNCDF MM4P a organisé une retraite de deux jours à l’hôtel Millenium Popo Beach d’Agoué les 23 et 24 mars 2017, avec la partie nationale béninoise. La rencontre a regroupé les représentants des Ministères de l’Economie et des Finances, de l’Economie Numérique et de la Communication, de l’Agriculture, de l’Elevage et de la Pêche, du Plan et du Développement, et de l’Agence du Numérique.
Pendant deux jours, les participants se sont imprégnés des concepts fondamentaux de la finance digitale pour avoir une compréhension commune des questions clés. Les orientations majeures du Programme d’Action du Gouvernement du Bénin en matière de numérique ont ainsi été présentées et des clarifications apportées sur les rôles des différentes structures qui s'occupent de son développement. Les participants ont ensuite eu un aperçu de la théorie du changement, au cœur de la stratégie MM4P avant de découvrir les réalisations du Programme au Bénin pour l’année écoulée et le plan stratégique 2017. Les travaux de l’atelier ont ainsi permis d’identifier les priorités du Gouvernement en matière de finance digitale (e-commerce, paiements gouvernementaux et chaine des valeurs agricoles) ainsi que les parties prenantes au processus. Une feuille de route a été mise en place pour suivre l’exécution du plan stratégique.
« Ces deux jours de travaux nous ont permis de parvenir à une vision commune sur ce qu’est la finance digitale, d’harmoniser nos actions et mieux prioriser les projets à mener pour impulser une dynamique au secteur de la finance digitale au Bénin » a déclaré au terme de l'atelier, Mme Sabine Mensah, Spécialiste Technique Régionale du programme MM4P pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest. « Nous allons nous appuyer sur les résultats de cette rencontre pour poursuivre les discussions bilatérales et affiner notre plan de travail qui va devenir notre boussole pour les réalisations de l’année 2017 » a-t-elle conclu.
Cette première retraite, constructive sur tous les plans, marque la volonté manifeste du Gouvernement de promouvoir la finance digitale au Bénin. Elle vient de renforcer le programme MM4P dans son engagement à accroître l’usage des services financiers numériques dans le pays, pour en permettre l’accès à plus de 12 pourcent de la population adulte d’ici 2019. Un objectif qui sera atteint avec l’implication de tous les acteurs, la partie nationale en particulier.
MM4P strategic plan 2017 for Benin
The digital finance sector in Benin, which is largely dominated by mobile network operators (MNOs), is expanding rapidly. There were over 400,000 active digital financial services (DFS) users in 2015, according to the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). This was accompanied by a noticeable improvement in awareness of mobile money services and an increase in the activity rate of clients.
The market is in the start-up phase, with potential for partnerships between MNOs and financial institutions, and notably the launch of new solutions by microfinance banks and institutions. Involving the Government in the implementation of digital finance projects therefore appears to be a good way of boosting momentum in DFS and achieving concrete results.
With this aim, UNCDF MM4P organized a two-day retreat at the Millenium Popo Beach Hotel in Agoué on 23 and 24 March 2017, for the Benin's national authorities. The meeting brought together representatives from the Ministries of the Economy and Finances, Digital Economy and Communication, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Planning and Development, and from the Digital Agency.
Over two days, participants immersed themselves in the basic concepts of digital finance, to acquire shared understanding around its key elements. The main strategies in the Government of Benin's digital action plan were introduced and clarifications provided on the roles of the various entities managing digital development. The participants were then given an overview of the theory of change at the heart of the UNCDF MM4P strategy, before hearing about the programme's achievements in Benin last year and the strategic plan for 2017.The workshop thus identified the Government’s priorities for digital finance (e-commerce, government payments and the agricultural value chain) and the stakeholders in the process. A roadmap was also introduced to monitor implementation of the strategic plan.
“These two days of work enabled us to have a shared vision of the nature of digital finance, to harmonize our initiatives and to better prioritize projects to boost momentum in the digital finance sector in Benin” stated Ms Sabine Mensah, Regional Technical Specialist for UNCDF MM4P in West Africa, in her closing remarks. “Our next steps to draw on the results of this meeting are to continue bilateral discussions and refine our work plan, which will be our compass for delivery in 2017” she concluded.
This first retreat, which was productive on all fronts, has demonstrated the clear willingness of the Government to promote DFS in Benin, supporting MM4P in its commitment to increase the use of DFS in the country by enabling access to more than 12 percent of the adult population by 2019. This objective will be achieved through the involvement of all actors, especially the national authorities.
Human-Centered Design (HCD), une approche centrée sur la personne!
Un terme si savamment trouvé pour désigner une démarche orientée vers le consommateur dans le processus de conception de produits ou de solutions.
Le programme de l’UNCDF MM4P a expérimenté cette démarche au Sénégal, avec l’appui technique des cabinets Innate Motion et PHB Development dans le cadre du projet de digitalisation des paiements des pensions aux retraités par le Trésor Public du Sénégal.
Près de 30 000 fonctionnaires retraités perçoivent chaque mois auprès des agences du Trésor Public leur pension en espèces. Pour ces personnes du troisième âge, cela signifie que pendant cinq jours, vers la fin du mois, ils doivent affronter la longue file d’attente des agences du Trésor. Sans compter le parcours du combattant pour s’y rendre : à pied pour les plus chanceux, en bus ou taxi pour la plupart qui viennent souvent de très loin.
N'y a-t-il pas une solution à ce parcours du combattant ? Certainement, mais la vraie question est de savoir si ces retraités ne souhaitent percevoir leur pension d’une autre manière.
Pour répondre à cette question, nous avons testé l’approche HCD, accompagnés des cabinets Innate Motion et PHB Development. C’est ainsi que nous avons fait une immersion avec les équipes du Trésor dans l’univers de retraités, sélectionnés à l’avance, pour mieux comprendre leur vie et le processus actuel par lequel ils perçoivent leurs pensions.
L’immersion a révélé que les retraités sont à la quête d’une reconnaissance et d’une dignité suite à leur passage de contributeur actif à la société à personne inactive, dépendante en quelque sorte.
La deuxième étape du processus a été la co-création: toujours en compagnie des équipes du Trésor, nous avons eu des discussions approfondies avec quelques retraités sélectionnés pour trouver ce qui serait le meilleur processus de paiement pour eux.
Dans l'expérience HCD, l'un des plus grands apprentissages pour moi a été ce pouvoir de segmenter intelligemment. Avec le projet de retraite, nous avons présenté 4 profils différents de retraités et examiné les différentes options de paiement et la capacité et l'intérêt de chaque type de retraités pour les moyens proposés.
L’exercice nous a permis de savoir que tous les retraités ne sont pas les mêmes, de définir quel type de retraité était plus à même d’adopter rapidement les solutions proposées et surtout de relever l’importance de mener une communication pédagogique durant la phase pilote du projet pour permettre aux retraités d’assimiler vite nouveaux moyens de paiements.
La fin du processus a révélé que la majorité des retraités est favorable à la digitalisation du paiement des pensions. Les options privilégiées sont le paiement par le biais des réseaux classiques de transfert d’argent, le virement sur un compte mobile ou une carte de paiement. Il y a cependant un petit nombre qui souhaite encore continuer à recevoir leur paiement via les agences du Trésor Public.
Le projet est actuellement au stade de planification d'un pilote pour les différentes options de paiement et la stratégie sera d'investir dans la communication et la formation des retraités à ces options. Il s’agira d’accompagner, dans une phase de transition, les retraités les plus enclin à adopter les nouveaux moyens de paiement à faire les premiers pas.
L’avenir nous dira quel est le réel impact de cette approche centrée sur les personnes sur l’écosystème de la finance digitale.
The tip of the (data) iceberg in Uganda
Faith owns a small fruit-selling business in Uganda. Like most small business owners in Uganda, Faith started her enterprise with her own income and lacks access to finance to grow beyond the few fruit stalls she owns. She doesn’t keep full financial records and lives most of her life informally and in cash, but has started using mobile money to make payments to the truck driver that delivers the fruit to the market and to receive payments from her customers. Faith, like Gimei Roberts from our first blog post, lacks access to financial services that support and improve their livelihoods.
But can new ways of collecting and analysing data tell us more about the economic lives of Faith and Gimei? For example, what do the payments that Faith has made and received through mobile money tell us about her cash flow management? And what about information on what we don’t see – her informal financial engagements?
Could these insights be used to design financial services that improve the lives of Faith or Gimei? If so, what type of financial services?
Last week, these were the questions put to the teams competing in the i2i country DataHack4FI Innovation Competition in Uganda hosted in partnership with UNCDF MM4P, FSDU and Laboremus. The competition ran from 31 March to 22 April 2017 and attracted over fifty participants, comprising of seventeen teams. The final ten teams squared off at the Innovation Village in Kampala, Uganda and presented their prototypes to a panel of judges with representatives from Airtel, Stanbic, FSDU, Interswitch and Cellulant.
Presented with data from the Uganda National Small Business Survey (2013) and the recently released L-IFT Financial Diaries survey in Uganda, (2017), teams were challenged to design welfare-enhancing financial services for low revenue businesses and vulnerable segments of adults with a focus on the potential of technology to enable financial institutions to serve them.
The datasets provided important information on the financial needs of these groups, with a specific focus on SMEs. For example, most SMEs need access to finance to grow their business, but have poor record keeping of transactional information, making it difficult for credit-scoring models to evaluate their repayment potential.
The winning team, #KillerAnalytics, put forward the solution SmartCredit, which is a business intelligence and analytics engine that processes SME data to create accurate business profiles to identify financing gaps and design tailored solutions for SMEs based on their specific business scenarios. The solution leverages on data from MYAccounts™ which is a low cost mobile based tool that allows SMEs to record their basic transactions (sales, expenses, purchases, inventory etc.) in a simple, easy to use way and generates full financial reports automatically.
The team was mentored by Peter Kawumi, Innovations Specialist at FSDU, who shares his thoughts on the winning team’s solution,
“My engagements with #Killer Analytics supported their understanding of the National Small Business Survey dataset, allowing them to improve their solution to address the challenges of tracking records, getting access to formal credit that SMEs in Uganda face. Our engagements with SMEs within the Kampala area has already resulted in two new customers for the team and interest in addressing the credit linkage from two commercial banks. I have high hopes for their solution as it is addressing a real problem that SMEs face in Uganda.”
#KillerAnalytics will be heading to Kigali, Rwanda to square off against the top teams from the other eight country competitions in the Grand finale of the DataHack4FI Innovation Competition for a chance to pitch to investors at Transform Africa. The DataHack4FI innovation competition brings together data enthusiasts and FSPs to crowdsource data-driven solutions to real-world challenges in attempts to showcase the use of data-driven decision-making by FSPs.
Richard Ndahiro, a Consultant at UNCDF MM4P who served as a judge during the initial pitches at the launch of the competition and later as a mentor, reflects on his DataHack4FI experience,
“The hackathon was a very exciting event. It proved that Uganda not only has potential developers, but more so, that they care a lot and are ready to invest their time in solving the daily livelihood challenges of the low-income household in Uganda. The solutions developed were based on household data, an indication that availability and access to data in Uganda and the region can lead to great insight into the real challenges faced by the population and inform the development of the relevant innovative solutions powered by mobile payments, in key sectors like Agriculture, Health, Energy, Water and Sanitation. UNCDF will continue to support innovative platforms such as this DataHack4FI in order to improve the livelihoods of people such as Faith and Gimei.”
While the competition is ending, we hope that DataHack4FI is only the tip of the iceberg that catalyses interest in data and analytics for financial inclusion in Uganda.
The DataHack4FI innovation competition in Uganda is hosted by Laboremus in partnership with i2i, UNCDF Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) and FSD Uganda (FSDU), with additional datasets provided by Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT) and additional support from The Innovation Village Uganda and GLADfarm Uganda.
Kate Rinehart is Researcher for the Client Insights work stream at i2i.
Peter Kawumi is an Innovations Specialist at FSDU.
Richard Ndahiro is Consultant at UNCDF MM4P
Access to data in Uganda and the region can lead to great insight into the real challenges faced by the population
The potential of Agency Banking in Uganda
The Ugandan financial sector is awaiting the final changes in a regulation that will allow the banking sector to propel into Agency Banking. With Agency Banking a third party, an agent, can provide bank services outside of bank offices. Providing services through agents grant banks access to an untapped market potential; rural communities.
It is estimated that currently over nine million adults in Uganda need to travel more than an hour to access a bank branch. For these people, Agency Banking is a convenient solution. In neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda Agency Banking has already been successfully introduced, proving thousands of low-level income households access to financial services.
Agents, typically small shop owners such as pharmacies or grocery stores, will be able to offer many of the common services currently provided at bank branches such as balance inquiries, cash withdrawals and cash deposits.
According to a research recently conducted by MicroSave on behalf of Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU), for Agency Banking to become a success in Uganda there are a few important issues that need to be addressed for people to try this new service:
- Pricing needs to be appropriate
- Customers need to know that agents can be trusted and that transactions will be safe
- Technology and IT systems needed to make transactions needs to be working and reliable
- Agents will need to have enough balance on their account as well as cash in their till to deliver these banking services
- Both agents and customers should be trained on usage of agency banking and
- Opening a bank account should be simple and relatively easy.
UNCDF is supporting all major banks in Uganda who are eager to start Agency Banking as soon as the regulation is approved. This is expected to happen any time soon. Agency Banking will allow banks to on-board new customers, especially in rural areas, reduce account dormancy and operational costs from running an expensive network of branches as well as to increase their deposit base.
Currently UNCDF is assisting with six banks with technical assistance on their go-to-market strategy. Some banks are targeting specific agricultural value chains while others are focussing on specific geographical areas in Uganda.
UNCDF also supports these banks in a pilot period to test their systems, policies and procedures. Most of these banks need to procure complete new IT systems to offer these new services and need to adapt many of their current procedures or create new procedures; for example to recruit and manage agents.
David Cracknell, at MicroSave who recently conducted a study for Financial Sector Deepening Uganda on the readiness of the market for Agency Banking says that: “It is very exciting so see what is beginning to happen. Agency Banking is going to change the landscape of financial services in Uganda, both on the demand and supply side. Agency Banking can boost competition and can therefore potentially reduce costs for customers. We need to facilitate this cashless ecosystem by taking away friction points that currently people experience.” And that is exactly what UNCDF is doing.
This is the first blog on Agency Banking in Uganda. In the months to come we will share more about ongoing projects with six major banks in Uganda and their journey to start Agency Banking.
UNCDF is supporting all major banks in Uganda who are eager to start Agency Banking as soon as the regulation is approved
What is hidding behind such a savant word? Driving new behaviors into designing products or solutions starting with the consumer in mind. I was fortunate enough to have experienced the human-centered design (HCD) approach from start to end with Innate Motion, PHB Development and the national Treasury of Senegal. So what was the issue we wanted to solve?
About 30.000 retired civil servants collect their pension in cash every month at the Treasury agencies in Senegal. Typically this means for five days towards the end of the month, long lines for thousands of pensioners coming from all areas to make it to the payment centers distant by all means (walk, taxi, bus) to collect their pensions. Are there other ways for these people to receive their pension payments? Certainly, but this is not the right question. The right question is whether the retired civil servants would like to be paid differently for their pension.
In an effort to provide an HCD response to the question, Innate Motion and PHB Development organised immersion sessions in the home of select retired pensioners for MM4P and Treasury teams. The objective of the immersions sessions was to better understand the pensioners' lives and the current pensions payments process - walk a mile in my shoes and you will understand a glimpse of my reality!
The key insights that came out of the immersion process were the desire and need of the pensioners for recognition and dignity throughout the transition from being active contributors to the society to being in a position of dependency with retirement.
The second step in the process was co-creation: bringing select pensioners to focus group discussions with MM4P and the Treasury to create with them the payment process that would work for them. This new step led to one of the biggest learning from the HCD approach: the power of smart segmenting.
In the pensions project, the team came up with four different profiles of pensioners and looked at the different payment options and the capacity and appetite of each type of pensioners against the proposed medium. This exercise was very useful to understand: (1) that not all pensioners are the same, (2) which group would most likely consist of first adopters and (3) the importance of smart communication/campaigns and training of pensioners during the pilot phase to improve adoption of the different payments mechanism that will be offered. So are the pensioners for the digitisation of the pension payments? Yes. Is it true for all pensionners? No, not for everybody.
The digitisation options range from receiving payments over-the-counter through agent network to getting them directly in their own mobile wallet or a card. However there will still be a subset that will prefer to go to the Treasury to receive their payments. And that is OK.
We are currently at the stage of planning a pilot for the different payment options. The strategy being to invest up-front in communication and training of the different payment options, and offer pensioners the opportunity to opt in for their selected payment mechanism.
Working with the first adopters and ensuring their transition to the new payment options should be smooth, and it should facilitate them becoming the embassadors of change within the retired civil servant community in Senegal.
How will this participatory approach impact the ecosystem of digital finance? To be continued...
Zambia at the tipping point
Looking back at 2016
I have had the privilege of working with UNCDF for more than a year as the Regional Technical Specialist for one of its seminal programmes, MM4P.
In Zambia, UNCDF MM4P has joined hands with Financial Sector Deepening Zambia to launch a programme that is focused on accelerating the uptake and usage of digital financial services (DFS). When it launched in May 2015 only 2% of the adult Zambian population were active registered users of DFS[i] and there were a total of 1,656 active agents in the country. By the end of 2015 we had seen those numbers grow to about 4% of the adult Zambian population using DFS and a total of 3,225 active agents. As we look back to 2016, we are happy to report that 18% of the adult Zambian population are active registered DFS users and there are a total of 11,025 active agents.
People ask me what is so special about working in Zambia – there are many reasons, but if I had to name one, I would say it is the Zambian openness to new ideas and innovation. I have observed a real openness on the part of the regulators, providers and customers. In my previous incarnations, I’ve worked in many other markets – across Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. But what I love about working in Zambia is the openness of the people here—they are open to having real conversations, not just about the challenges, but about the opportunities that exist. Not just about the problems, but how to solve them. I am inspired by our regulator colleagues at the Bank of Zambia and the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority. Every day, I smile thinking about the insights, dynamism, force and positivity that emanate from our DFS providers – Airtel, MTN, Zoona, and others. Working in this market is probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my professional career.
Zambia- Small but mighty
When it comes to DFS, what many do not realize is that Zambia was the earliest adopter of DFS in Africa. Way before Safaricom launched M-Pesa in Kenya in 2006, Celpay had launched Zap in Zambia in 2002. Fast forward to 14 years later and the Zambian DFS market is competitive and has a diverse group of providers catering to the digital financial needs of the Zambian population. Zambia may be small, but it is mighty when it comes to DFS. The potential for growth in this market is one of the most remarkable things I have witnessed in my career in the sector. When I asked our current DFS Expert, Zerubabel Kwebiiha why he wanted to come work for us – he said “from everything I hear – and I’ve asked many people – Zambia is at a tipping point – and I want to be part of that”.
One trait that sets Zambia apart is the level of innovation and the speed at which it is willing to embrace DFS. For example, in just a couple of weeks the Bank of Zambia responded positively to providers requesting authorization to use Refugee IDs or Alien IDs as part of the Know Your Customer requirements for mobile money accounts. Both the speed of the request from the private sector and the speed of the response by the Bank of Zambia are a great sign and hope for the 57,000 persons of concern in the country. This first success is part of a new initiative UNCDF launched in partnership with UNHCR and with the support of the government through the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees. The objective is to digitize cash based interventions for persons of concern and vulnerable populations including refugees, former refugees and asylum seekers, coming mostly from the DRC, Angola and Somalia.
Facing the challenges head on
While we are driven by optimism and positive energy, the DFS ecosystem in Zambia faces many challenges as it works towards greater heights. As UNCDF MM4P takes on the role of the honest and neutral broker, we realize that it takes time to develop the trust that is required to get the relevant stakeholders to share their needs. As a reflection of exhaustive analysis of research, data, and interviews with stakeholders, our work is centered around the key challenges to the growth of DFS, described in our learning agenda below:
· Enabling Customer Acquisition & Active Wallet use. First and foremost – a constant drumbeat from providers and regulators is the “meaningful awareness problem”. Zambians don’t know what DFS services are, what they can do for them, and how to sign up for them. We are working with providers to address this issue and ensure that products are created and marketed with the Zambian customer at the center. What strategies can DFS providers take to more effectively drive the adoption and usage of wallets?
· Fixing the Agent Profitability Problem. Despite being on par with East African countries on transaction volumes, research and interviews consistently show Zambia to have the lowest agent revenue and profitability, which has resulted in the slow growth of agent networks. We are working with providers on trying to answer their question -- Why are agent profits so low in Zambia and what changes can operators make to improve profit levels?
· Fixing the Agent Liquidity & Cash Availability Problem. Like most markets, 43% of agents “bounce” customers because they don’t have enough cash or e-float at the right time. This is related to the issue of agent profitability, but also one that is systemic and the responsibility of the provider. Most providers struggle with this issue and we are trying to help them answer the question -- How do we improve agent liquidity and cash availability that serves the needs of the client as well as the agent in a sustainable manner?
· Modeling Sustainable High Volume Payments. Driving demand for digital finance is a very important “other side of the coin”. If there isn’t enough demand for DFS, they cannot be sustainable. We are working with UNHCR to digitize Cash Based Intervention to Refugees and private sector to develop bulk payment strategies. We’ve also helped the GRZ, of the largest payers and payees in the country, understand how much of their payments are in cash and digital – the first step to digitizing payments. Through these activities we hope to gain insights to help us answer the question -- How can high volume payments be digitized in a way that meets the needs of payer and payee?
· Enabling Wallets through the OTC bridge. Over-the-Counter (OTC) products are very popular in Zambia – but doesn’t provide a larger suite of services to the customer. Our work with Zoona to help launch the Sunga product helps to answer the questions-- Why do some customers prefer OTC over digital wallet usage? What profile of users are least and most likely to transition from OTC to wallet usage?
Looking to the future: MM4P’s strategy for this year
In 2017 UNCDF MM4P’s key priorities will reflect the key challenges facing the Zambian DFS market. We are working with DFS providers to devise strategies that effectively drive the adoption and usage of wallets. We are also looking at how high-volume payments e.g. government-to-person payments such as social cash transfers and salaries can be digitized in a way that meets the needs of the payer and the payee. MM4P Zambia is working with DFS providers to test innovative models that address the issues of agent profitability and agent liquidity,
UNCDF MM4P’s vision for Zambia is to put the needs, wants and aspirations of Zambians at the center of DFS product design, agent liquidity and the policy and regulatory environment. Through digital financial services, we want to see all Zambians have improved access to their basic needs, including power, water, education and quality agricultural inputs- all at an affordable cost. We want to help the DFS Ecosystem crack the nut on providing sustainable, affordable services to those underserved -- especially women and those in rural areas.
Nandini is a Regional Technical Specialist, responsible for the implementation of the United Nations Capital Development Fund Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) Digital Finance country strategy in Zambia. Partnering with Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ), she is leading a team focused on increasing financial inclusion through digital finance. She is also leading MM4P’s efforts in Malawi.
[i] Based on Bank of Zambia data
10 bougies et un monde de possibilités
En 2007, Le principal opérateur de téléphonie mobile kenyan SAFARICOM lançait M-Pesa, son portemonnaie électronique, marquant l’avènement des services financiers numériques / mobiles en Afrique, le premier pas du continent en direction de M-Dorado, ce paradis des services financiers digitaux. Dix ans après, quel chemin parcouru ?
M-Pesa a littéralement bouleversé le quotidien des kenyans. On peut quasiment tout faire avec : payer ses factures courantes (eau, électricité, abonnement au câble…) ou encore payer pour ses courses dans pratiquement tous les magasins au Kenya (du méga centre commercial au kiosque au coin de la rue) ; on peut aussi épargner sur M-Pesa, faire fructifier cette épargne, bâtir son historique de crédit, demander un prêt et l’obtenir en moins d’une minute… Depuis peu, il y a M-Akiba, qui permet maintenant aux Kenyans d’acheter des obligations de l’Etat à travers leur téléphone portable, une première au monde. Et la liste est encore longue…
En bref, la saga M-Pesa fait du Kenya le leader mondial en matière d’intégration des services financiers numériques au quotidien des citoyens. Bonus fierté : c’est une invention africaine, pensée pour les africains, mais qui est idéale pour le monde entier.
M-Dorado serait-il donc proche?
Pas si sûr. L’hirondelle M-Pesa n’annonce – malheureusement – pas encore le printemps des services financiers mobiles en Afrique. Pour autant les choses bougent, et dans la bonne direction.
De plus en plus de pays africains adoptent les services financiers digitaux – et de plus en plus rapidement- et réforment leurs législations pour favoriser l’expansion des innovations financières digitales. L’objectif est d’assurer l’inclusion financière des non bancarisés – la majorité de la population – une condition sine qua non pour réaliser le développement de l’Afrique. Et ainsi, de plus en plus de success stories dans la finance digitale bourgeonnent à travers la région, notamment sur le crédit digital : M-Pawa en Tanzanie, MoKash en Ouganda...
Et sur les marchés qui sont entrés moins vite que l’Afrique de l’Est dans l’ère des services financiers mobiles, le vent du changement souffle indiscutablement. Prenons l’Afrique de l’Ouest : selon les statistiques de la BCEAO de septembre 2015, sur les neuf premiers mois de l’année, les usagers de l’Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) avaient réalisé 346,9 millions de paiements mobiles d’une valeur de 5.121 milliards FCFA et 1.260.575 opérations ont été traitées en moyenne par l’ensemble des plateformes de paiement mobile existantes dans l’UEMOA. Ces données parlent d’elles-mêmes.
Alors, la question demeure : comment faire du Kenya la norme et non l’exception en Afrique en matière d’intégration des services financiers mobiles ? Quelques suggestions :
Tout d’abord, il faut créer des marchés régionaux inclusifs et interopérables. La taille ici sera critique pour pérenniser l’expansion de l’industrie des services financiers mobiles.
Ensuite, il faut que les Etats jouent un rôle de catalyseur pour assurer l’adoption des services financiers digitaux en investissant dans la digitalisation des paiements et en créant des incitations législatives en faveur des paiements digitaux.
La réglementation doit anticiper le potentiel des services financiers digitaux et ouvrir un cadre qui permet aux innovations financières digitales d’émerger et ainsi inciter les partenariats gagnant-gagnants entres les banques, les institutions de microfinance, les fintechs, les agrégateurs et les opérateurs mobiles. Cela fait beaucoup d’acteurs et d’intérêts à rapprocher certes , mais il n’en faudra pas moins que cela si les services financiers mobiles doivent pleinement contribuer à l’expansion de l’Afrique.
La volonté y est, en tous cas, et les initiatives entreprises sur le contient le prouvent. Au Sénégal par exemple, un groupe de travail sur la Finance Digitale a été récemment mis en place et s’est réuni le 9 mars passé. Cette rencontre a généré d’intéressantes discussions sur les différents modèles de partenariats pour les services financiers digitaux, particulièrement sur les produits dits de deuxième génération tels que le crédit digital (soumettre une demande de crédit, recevoir le crédit et le rembourser via son téléphone mobile), l’épargne digitale (avoir un compte d’épargne rémunéré sur son téléphone mobile) et la micro-assurance digitale.
Sur la route de M-Dorado, la région ouest africaine devra faire face à deux principaux challenges pour faciliter l’évolution de l’écosystème des services financiers : la nécessite d’adapter les réglementations pour favoriser les innovations financières mobiles, ainsi que le besoin de renforcement des capacités des fournisseurs de services en finance digitale. Ce dernier point est un axe majeur des interventions du programme MM4P. Le programme a facilité la formation de plus de 100 professionnels en l’espace de deux ans au Sénégal et au Bénin, à travers des formations sur la gestion des réseaux d’agents, des ateliers sur la finance digitale pour les institutions financières, des formations en ligne sur les produits financiers digitaux.
Tous ces efforts sont en phase avec les tendances. 10 ans après le lancement de M-Pesa, selon GSMA, l'industrie des services financiers mobiles a franchi une étape majeure : plus d'un demi-milliard de comptes d'argent mobile ont été enregistrés à la fin de 2016, dont plus de la moitié en Afrique sub-Saharienne ! D’aucun dirait que le taux d’utilisation actif n’est pas aussi parlant mais sur la route de M-Dorado, chaque pas compte. Et même s’il y a des efforts à fournir pour développer l’écosystème d’acceptation de la monnaie électronique autour des besoins des clients, nous savons que M-Dorado n’est plus très loin. Nous avançons sans cesse dans la bonne direction, et ça, c’est essentiel !
Par Sabine Mensah, Technical Specialist au Sénégal.