DFS for Smallholder Farmers in Sierra Leone

DFS for Smallholder Farmers in Sierra Leone

Bank Complex, Kingtom. 8th August 2017​, 8:30am – 5:00pm

Organizers

Ministry of Finance & Economic Development and Bank of Sierra Leone in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, with support from the UNCDF-based Better Than Cash Alliance (Alliance) and MM4P.

Rationale

Digital financial services (DFS) are playing an increasingly central role in financial inclusion efforts globally. The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), recognizing DFS as a priority, highlighted it in its National Strategy for Financial Inclusion 2017 – 2020: “to enable financial services and delivery channels to leverage technology to design and deliver services for a diverse range of population including women, youth, rural-based population and MSMEs.” As part of the implementation of this priority, many initiatives are underway such as the creation of the DFS Working Group, the launch of the Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge 2017, and the Government to People (G2P) Payments Initiative. 

Recognizing agriculture and smallholder farmers as the backbone of the economy and source of livelihood for over 70% of the population, concerted efforts are also required to deliver the promise of digital financial services to this critical group and growth sector: agriculture.  “Agriculture is the mainstay of the rural populations and the most dominant of the country’s economic sectors followed by mining. Their distance from brick-and-mortar branches and risk profile have traditionally excluded them from access to formal financial services.

Relatively little is known about the financial services needs of the Sierra Leone agriculture sector, and the first step in reaching these clients successfully is to better understand their needs, preferences, aspirations and behaviours. With that knowledge and a robust digital payments ecosystem, the government, financial services providers, fintech companies and other stakeholders can develop and pilot more effective financial services and products designed to enhance the value proposition for value chain actors in general and smallholder farmers specifically. The focus will be on improving their risk management ability and lowering provider delivery costs through the use of technology. 

Workshop Overview

The Ministry of Finance & Economic Development recognises that the role of Government is central to lead and coordinate stakeholders, including leveraging their payments to the agriculture sector to build out the DFS ecosystem.  With support from the Better Than Cash Alliance and MM4P (UNCDF), the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development; the Bank of Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Agriculture are hosting an interactive workshop to explore the opportunities of building a robust digital payments ecosystem that will deliver transformative financial services for the country’s smallholder farmers and the agriculture sector at large. 

Objectives of the Workshop

  1. Share lessons from other countries on how client-centric DFS for the agriculture value-chain and smallholder farmers can lead to cost-savings for government, greater outreach and impact, and transformative financial inclusion;
  2. Achieve greater clarity on the role of key stakeholders Government, including Ministry of Finance & Economic Development Bank of Sierra Leone and Ministry of Agriculture, Development Partners and the private sector;
  3. Explore the common challenges and solutions to building sustainable agriculture for smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone and how digital payments can be used to address the challenges.

Envisaged Outcomes from the Workshop

  1. Framework for development of a Digital Payments Strategy for the agriculture sector, with a special focus on smallholder farmers;
  2. Mapping of the roles of key government ministries and other stakeholders in building a digital payments ecosystem that supports agriculture sector.