Agro Value Chains

Agro Value Chains

The Gender Impact of Digital Payments

Agro Value Chains

The Gender Impact of Digital Payments

Female coffee farmers save and invest more after receiving their pay on their phone
October 18 , 2017

Nafina; Napanga and Tweke.


Kapchorwa - 

When you drink your exquisite cup of Arabica coffee, close your eyes and think beyond the wonderful aroma. Behind it lie the stories of farmers such as Nafina, Napanga and Tweke; three farmers from Kapchorwa, in the Mont Elgon region of Uganda. In efforts encouraging farmers to accept digital payment for their produce, Nafina, Napanga and Tweke are part of a UNCDF programme focused on digitizing agricultural value chains across the country. Within this programme, they were introduced to receiving their payment on their mobile phone in 2016. A year later, all three women consider themselves active users of mobile money and are quick to praise its impact on their lives.

Mobile money has proven to help, even transform, the economic lives of women.  A 2016 Kenyan study looked at the longitudinal impact of M-Pesa at the household level. Not only did it find that mobile money had a positive economic impact on nearly 200,000 households, but that female-headed households experienced the greatest uplift.  Financial resilience, savings and occupational choice improved substantially as a direct result of access to M-Pesa.  Over the course of the study, 185,000 women moved from subsistence farming to business occupations - a trend the researchers attribute to mobile money access. 

The insights yielded from Kenya provide tangible evidence of the meaningful impact digital financial services can have on the lives of users—particularly for more vulnerable populations, such as women and rural communities.  However, the barriers to effectively serve these communities have yet to be overcome.

Although the number of financially included women increased between 2011 and 2014, women are still 23% less likely than men to have access to an account1 in sub-Saharan Africa.  Digitizing payments can be a powerful hook to increase access to financial services for women, particularly in agricultural sectors where it is estimated that women make up half of agricultural labour in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the challenge that UNCDF is working to overcome is how to increase the relevance and utility of digital financial services for people who need it most. This is what underpins the work with Nafina, Napanga and Tweke in Uganda.

Nafina farms coffee on two acres of land that is owned by her husband. As for Napanga, she owns eight acres of land and farms coffee and matooke (bananas). Tweke has three acres of land and farms coffee, Irish potato and matooke. Working in partnership with Kyagalani Coffee Limited, a coffee exporter, Yo! Uganda, an aggregator and MTN, a mobile network operator, UNCDF’s project aims to digitize coffee payments and lay the foundation to develop a mobile money environment that meets the needs of the farmers and their community. A key part of this is understanding how to transform a digital payment made to Nafina, Napanga and Tweke into a suite of services that meets their financial needs. 

When Nafina, Napanga and Tweke sold their coffee at the weighing station last year, the ladies had the opportunity to participate in a financial literacy and mobile money training programme led by IDEO, another partner on this project who specializes in human centered design; a methodology to keep the customer at centre during product development. Through a user-centered approach, these women developed personalized financial goals and aspirations alongside a savings budget and a realistic timeline.

This approach gave a practical application of mobile money that was flexible enough to be tailored to their individual needs. Nafina’s goal was to buy a cow and a solar panel for her home. She now uses mobile money to store her earnings from selling her coffee beans. For Napanga, mobile money gave her a more secure alternative to storing cash. Her savings are now safely stored on her mobile money account. This enabled her to buy two goats and open a shop in half the time she anticipated. Tweke uses mobile money just to keep her money away from the eyes of her family. And it worked; because she has less cash in her pocket and therefore limited her unplanned expenses.  As a result, her savings allowed her to increase investment into her agricultural inputs at the end of the harvest.

These success stories not only underline the impact that mobile money can have on women, they also highlight the importance of ensuring digital financial services need to be flexible and adaptable to the unique financial goals and ambitions of each individual.

1 According to the Global Findex 2014, an account can be at a bank, financial institution or a mobile account.

By Sabine Mensah, Regional Technical Specialist, MM4P & Lara Gilman, Independent Consultant

For more information, please contact
Naomi de Groot
KM Consultant, Uganda
Additional Information
Naomi de Groot
KM Consultant, Uganda

Integrating the fish value chain with digital financial services

Agro Value Chains

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 09:55 -- anna.ferracuti

The Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) Uganda programme commissioned research on three agro-value chains: coffee, dairy and fish. Uganda has an overall water cover of 18 percent, and has active fishing in the Albert, Edward, George, Kyoga and Victoria lakes; in the Kafu, Nile and Olweny rivers; and in 160 other water bodies. However, this note focuses on research conducted on the fish value chain at seven Lake Kyoga fish landing sites.

Uganda’s Tea Payments Profile

Agro Value Chains

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 09:50 -- anna.ferracuti

Uganda experiences the favourable climate that is necessary for tea growing. Tea growing was introduced during the colonial days, and by the mid-1950s, tea production and export had made tea Uganda’s main estate crop. Today, tea is Uganda’s second largest foreign export earner (after coffee), with over 21,000 hectares of land dedicated to its growth and harvest. The tea sector produces over 10,000 metric tons of tea per annum, about 90 percent of which is exported.

When stakeholders work together, we make progress

Agro Value Chains

When stakeholders work together, we make progress

By Anna Ferracuti, UNCDF MM4P
September 09 , 2016

Photo #1: Amani M'Bale

Photo #2: Amani M'Bale with her team in Uganda in front of the MTN mobile base transceiver station, Kapchowra

Kampala, UGANDA - 

Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) Uganda Technical Specialist Amani M’Bale maintains, “Since government and private sector stakeholders have engaged, we have made progress in expanding financial inclusion to those in need.”

Ms. M’Bale is stepping down from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) after six years of working to bring financial inclusion to underserved populations in least developed countries in Africa. MM4P spoke with Ms. M’Bale to gather insights about her work on the ground in the MM4P countries of Liberia and Uganda.

MM4P: Ms. M’Bale, how do you remember your time in Liberia?

Amani M’Bale: I assumed the position of UNCDF Liberia Chief Technical Advisor in 2013 to expand our work in financial inclusion. One of the highlights of my time was working with the Central Bank of Liberia to modernize the national mobile money regulations. The Central Bank is staffed with visionary leaders who remain close colleagues today. The new mobile money regulations were approved soon after my departure in April 2014, enabling digital financial service (DFS) provision to rural areas; this advance was pivotal and established the presence of MM4P in Liberia. Unfortunately, by mid-2014, the Ebola virus emerged and devastated communities in Liberia and neighbouring West African countries. My assignment had come to an end in Liberia, but an opportunity to continue my work with MM4P materialized in Uganda.

MM4P: How was your work different in Uganda?

Amani M’Bale: Uganda presented a different and broader context in which to engage. My role at MM4P Uganda entailed not only working with regulators but also concerted effort working with private sector actors for the delivery of financial services to underserved communities. With the focus of MM4P Uganda on service provision, there was a great deal of attention on designing and testing products and services with clients; thus, our field presence was greater. The Ugandan context provided an excellent platform for the team and me to engage in DFS ecosystem development, an approach which promotes integrated solutions to the delivery of financial services—not simply aiming for client access but designing for client usage. When clients use services, it demonstrates that those services add value; financial services designed with MM4P support are designed to encourage access to a broad suite of financial products and services, which provide opportunity for saving, investing, lending, sending/receiving remittances, etc. that enable livelihood and household economic development.

Another new aspect of work in Uganda was collaborating with a specialized team. I had the great privilege of working with local experts in designing the MM4P Uganda investment programme. Isaac Holly Ogwal, MM4P Uganda DFS Expert, and I rolled up our sleeves and cooperated with market stakeholders, including mobile network operators, banks and payment service providers, amongst others, to research how new solutions could support digital financial inclusion for the clients the programme sought to serve. The result of our efforts was an approach through which MM4P Uganda reaches marginalized communities via bulk payment initiatives, which are complemented with DFS such as saving and lending products. This body of work was made possible through fruitful collaboration with MM4P programme partners Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd, Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) Uganda, Fenix International, Yo! Uganda and Mukwano Industries, amongst others.

From a policy perspective, the programme worked to advocate for more awareness of digital financial inclusion amongst regulators, including the Bank of Uganda, the Ministry of Finance and the Uganda Communications Commission. This work involved research, diagnostic efforts to assess the state of digitization in the national payments ecosystem (Better Than Cash Alliance Payments Diagnostic) and the regulatory instrument impact on mobile money (Regulatory Impact Assessment), trainings, and exchange visits with advanced regulatory environments.

MM4P: What did MM4P Uganda research show that demonstrated that working in agricultural value chains was sound?

Amani M’Bale: Our research clearly demonstrated that the most prominent agricultural value chains are well structured and heavily dependent on cash, which presents great opportunity to digitize payments to farmers, traders, suppliers and processors. The research showed that one of the major issues of a cash-laden payments system is security and fraud: agro value chain actors, including farmers, traders and bulk payer employees, are exposed to theft and fraud due to cash in transit. Our job was to identify the bulk payers who were interested in testing digital payments and to encourage the provision of DFS.

MM4P: What is the potential scale of the bulk payment work MM4P supports?

Amani M’Bale: It’s significant. In Uganda, approximately 85 percent of the total population is based in rural areas; the rural economy is the bedrock of the national economy. Thus, the work of MM4P to modernize payments systems and provide financial services has the potential to affect millions of people. Specifically, our research revealed that the coffee value chain employs 2.5 million people, while the tea value chain employs 0.2 million and the dairy value chain employs 1.2 million. Youth are heavily employed in these value chains, as are women. Likewise, by building a DFS ecosystem, the programme supports employment of agents (predominately mobile money agents, currently) who serve as cash-in/cash-out points and provide critical customer support to DFS users.

MM4P: You mentioned working with Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd, a coffee exporter. Could you briefly explain the work of MM4P in the coffee value chain?

Amani M’Bale: With the financial support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MM4P began working in 2015 with several companies to digitize a coffee value chain. The coffee bulk payer with which we partner is Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd (KCL), which aims to digitize payments to over 10,000 of its farmers. KCL is the third largest coffee exporter in Uganda, and it seeks to complement its sustainability initiatives with financial inclusion for farmers; KCL strives to improve farmer livelihoods. MM4P worked with KCL to improve its financial systems with technological improvements (engineered by Yo! Uganda) so that its systems can capture and engage farmer payments using mobile money or cash, effectively enabling digital payments.

We also partnered with MTN Uganda to provide customized mobile money services to KCL farmers. Initially, we worked with MTN to improve network coverage in the mountainous target geography by installing a mobile base transceiver station, which MM4P guaranteed against losses for the first year. Subsequently, in 2016, MTN introduced the first mobile financial product, MoKash, to the Ugandan market; this product is likewise being offered to KCL farmers. With partner Fenix International, the programme designed a financial product (lease to own) to facilitate cell phone and solar solution ownership amongst farmers, especially women.

MM4P: Did you have to disburse the guarantee fund to MTN Uganda?

Amani M’Bale: In spite of very low initial expectations, once installed, the MTN mobile base transceiver station registered profits in the first month. In fact, the tower never experienced any losses, instead, it over performs on voice and data to this day.

The project is a success and caught the attention of other organizations as a case to study. It was the first of its kind, and MM4P is now piloting similar initiatives in other value chains across Uganda.

MM4P: What was the secret?

Amani M’Bale: There is no secret! If stakeholders work together, we can make progress; and we don’t let failure stop us—we allow it to teach us.

For example, designing this project resulted in a number of operating principles related to bulk payments. Initially, we thought bulk payment initiatives should target farmers first. However, we learned that instead it’s better to target bulk payer employees first, in order to allow for product and service correction. Thus, the programme’s first clients were bulk payer employees who interface with farmers directly because, if we could get the service delivery right with them, they would sell the service and teach farmers how to use the digital payment tools and financial services. This is just one example of the lessons we learned.

MM4P: Initially you mentioned the programme advocated for awareness of digital financial inclusion within the Government. As a UN staff member, how has being a neutral broker contributed to raising awareness and generating dialogue?

Amani M’Bale: The UN is indeed a neutral broker, which is an important and privileged status. As a UN staff member promoting the work of MM4P, I was able to engage with regulators, such as the Bank of Uganda and the Ministry of Finance, without market interests or bias due to my UN affiliation. Our engagement efforts were positive and thus our relationship is strong.

For example, MM4P is supportive of new regulatory guidelines on bank agency, upcoming policy for payment service systems and providers, and the first National Financial Inclusion Strategy. These policy frameworks and instruments bring clarity to the market and, I believe, advance digital financial inclusion in Uganda.

MM4P: New regulations will open new windows of opportunity. What are some remaining constraints or challenges?

Amani M’Bale:

  1. Although the UN has influence and no control, with donor funding the UN exercises powerful levers. The UN has no control over regulations or business practices; rather, the UN exerts influence, provides convening power and advocates for marginalized communities. For example, due to flexible funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNCDF Uganda was able to co-invest in rural low-income areas, deemed too risky for the private sector to invest in alone; this approach is a powerful form of influence and advocacy and an example of why donors should continue to invest in institutions like UNCDF.
  1. The Ugandan financial services industry needs to offer more diversity of products customized to low-income earners. We need more financial product offerings, including DFS, for low-income and rural Ugandans. Considering the economic impact of the agricultural sector, financial products that suit farmer and trader cash flows and consumption cycles are required to support livelihood development and ultimately economic growth.
  1. New entrants in the financial sector need financial literacy. Today, Ugandans can access a saving and lending product via the MTN MoKash product, which MM4P supported with market research. This product represents a critical advancement in the DFS sector. Notwithstanding, many Ugandans have low financial and technological literacy; essentially, clients’ understanding of how to use financial products is limited, much less how to use digital financial products. For example, the level of end-user knowledge on how to manipulate a phone, and the USSD codes contained therein, is low. To accelerate usage, both of these knowledge gaps need to be closed.

MM4P: To conclude, what lessons can you share?

Amani M’Bale: There are two key lessons that were validated in Uganda:

  1. Remember that relationships are paramount. Relationships lead to partnerships, which are required not only to launch projects but to manage difficulties and failures during implementation—failure is simply an opportunity to improve performance. If we didn’t have strong relationships with MTN, KCL and Yo! Uganda throughout the project, we would not have arrived at the lessons learned and progress of the coffee value chain project we have today. It was through the development of true partnership that we were able to sustainably problem solve and begin to reach end users.
  1. Understand partner incentives and motivations to build strong projects. Partners are not the same and are not looking for the same outcomes when they engage in a project. It is key to understand each partner’s motivation so as to design the process accordingly. When each partner derives value from the project, all partners engage successfully and actively seek to support and strengthen outcomes.


Additional reading

Uganda Annual Monitor 2015:

‘Customer profiles to improve reach of MTN mobile savings and loan product in rural Uganda’ article:

‘MTN MoKash: Savings and lending for the last mile’ article:

‘Building branchless and mobile financial services ecosystems in the last mile’ article:


September 2016. Copyright © UNCDF. 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.


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