Welcome to the conference on Women and Enterprises Driving Financial Inclusion and Investment Returns


September 3, 2015 - 10:50 -- admin.uncdf
Blog For: 
Apr 08, 2015

The National Bank of Cambodia and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) are pleased to invite you to attend the upcoming stakeholders’ conference on, "Women and Enterprises Driving Financial Inclusion and Investment Returns”.

This two-day conference is being held on 29th -30th April 2015 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Purpose of the Conference

To develop a framework for action to incentivise greater private and quasi-private sector investment and financing for MSMEs, contributing in particular to women’s economic empowerment in frontier markets in the ASEAN region.

Objectives of the Conference

  • How to introduce and up-scale alternative financing models;
  • How to enhance role of private sector in financing to MSMEs;
  • How to mobilise local capital, international financial flows, have risk financing arrangements for investing in MSMEs;
  • How to collaborate and engage with existing initiatives and stakeholders for addressing the MSME financing gap;

The conference specifically focuses on emerging ASEAN countries - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), and how they can collaborate with and leverage efforts of other ASEAN countries for MSME growth. The conference outcomes will provide a platform for sharing, gaining insights, networking and partnerships, as well as contribute to the development of a regional level programme in ASEAN.

The conference targets approximately 100 attendees from government agencies, corporates, microfinance institutions, banks, development finance institutions, funding agencies, social/impact Investors, venture capital firms, research and training institutions from ASEAN countries.

We thank you for your participation and we look forward to welcoming you in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Yangon Outcomes for Financial Inclusion in ASEAN


September 3, 2015 - 07:23 -- admin.uncdf
Blog For: 
Oct 30, 2014

Whereas the ASEAN Financial Inclusion Conference took place in Yangon, Myanmar, on 29 and 30 October 2014, hosted by H.E. U Win Shein, Minister of Finance of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Chairman of the 18th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Meeting in collaboration with the UN Capital Development Fund and other development partners;

And whereas delegates from ASEAN countries reported on their respective financial inclusion strategies and received papers from experts in the field of financial inclusion;

The Conference noted that:

  1. Equitable economic development is one of the critical pillars of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint. It is also the central concern of the UN’s post-2015 Agenda.
  2. Financial Integration occupies a central role in supporting increased growth in ASEAN and the addition of pro-active Financial Inclusion programmes can accelerate growth greater equity and the potential for enhanced stability.
  3. Financial Inclusion can support broad-based inclusive growth by allowing poor and unbanked households and small and medium sized enterprises greater access to finance. They are also enabled to better mitigate agriculture risks, natural disasters, increasing food prices and health shocks through the availability of a portfolio of financial services including savings, credit and insurance.
  4. Increased Financial Inclusion can also boost productivity. It enables households to make investments in education and skills, and also to improve their health conditions through the use of risk mitigation products, credit and savings. By bringing enterprises from using informal to formal financial services, Financial Inclusion can help enlarge the fiscal space. It can also broaden the production base of a country by facilitating the continuous emergence of new enterprises through the provision of resources to grow their businesses.
  5. Financial Inclusion further mirrors key functions of social protection schemes by offering a path to both poor and non-poor households just above the poverty-line to stabilise their incomes and expenses and to better manage a host of risks, helping to begin a journey into a more predictable and less deprived future.
  6. Some ASEAN countries have adopted strategies to promote Financial Inclusion, although their approaches vary.
  7. The availability of new survey data and supporting evidence allows the design of regional, national and sub-national Financial Inclusion targets and programmes.
  8. Given the fiscal constraints in some ASEAN countries, the market-friendly nature of Financial Inclusion offers multiple options for public-private partnerships, as well as the opportunity for households to use private financial services to reduce vulnerability.

The Conference accordingly recommends the following for consideration by the future ASEAN Finance Ministers’ meetings:

  1. That the promotion of Financial Inclusion as a policy objective under the third pillar of the AEC Blueprint, i.e. Equitable Economic Development, be affirmed;
  2. That those ASEAN countries who have not yet incorporated Financial Inclusion as a central pillar of their overall development policy, consider doing so;
  3. That ASEAN countries develop comprehensive Financial Inclusion policies that may include the following:
    1. Facilitating the provision of financial services by a diversity of regulated financial services providers, whilst encouraging reasonable innovation and monitoring risk.
    2. Ensuring the delivery of a portfolio of financial services consisting of payments, savings, credit and insurance services that meet their needs, to households and small enterprises.
    3. Promoting the development of financial sector infrastructure and distribution networks that can enhance reasonable physical access to financial services to the large majority of their population. This can include the promotion of electronic payments and branchless or agent banking options.
    4. Taking special measures to assist women to access and use financial services.
    5. Ensuring that financial services deliver value to households and small enterprises and are provided in a responsible and transparent manner, with appropriate consumer protection measures.
  4. That ASEAN, at a regional level, implement initiatives to:
    1. Co-ordinate regulation and supervision to facilitate cross-border remittances, if need be perhaps by initial bilateral agreements. This should include the consistent application of appropriate AML/CFT measures.
    2. Build the capacity of financial sector supervisors and financial services providers responsible for the promotion of Financial Inclusion.
    3. Develop common approaches to the measurement of financial access, usage and value, including common indicators, to facilitate the comparative analysis of the outcomes of different policy approaches.
    4. Facilitate on-going dialogue and support among ASEAN countries with different levels of experience in Financial Inclusion.
  5. That, in order to realise the achievement of the above objectives, the ASEAN Finance and Central Bank Deputies Working Group (AFDM-WG) be tasked with coordinating efforts to implement the above priority actions in the ASEAN region, including engagement with other relevant working groups and the establishment of a Financial Inclusion Advisory Group to support their activities.

The Conference further:

Hearing more from the breakout sessions


March 4, 2015 - 12:34 -- karima.wardak
Blog For: 
Feb 26, 2015

DFSgoRURAL programme and participantsWe already posted impressions from two of Tuesday’s animated breakout sessions (#1 and #2). We wanted to share some notes from two more (#3 and #5) that got us discussing ingredients for DFS to go rural.

  • Session #1: Working with agriculture/farmers with John Magnay of Opportunity International
  • Session #2: Linking with savings groups with Sybil Chidiac of CARE International
  • Session #3: Working with aggregators with Anne Craib of Vital Wave, an aggregator in Uganda
  • Session #4: Making bank/mobile network operator partnerships work with Jennifer McDonald of Women’s World Banking
  • Session #5: Lessons learned across Africa with Mike McCaffrey of The Helix Institute of Digital Finance - MicroSave
  • Session #6: Financial education for rural expansion and digital financial services with Jessica Massie of Reach Global, Aly Ouédraogo of Freedom from Hunger and Marie Pascaline of Réseau des Caisses Populaires du Burkina

For brief descriptions of each session, click here

Working with aggregators

Right off the bat we learned that, though there are different kinds of aggregators, we’d be focused on payment aggregators in this session. Anne (a Senior Strategy and Management Consultant with the aggregator Vital Wave) further defined them as “...a value-added service provider, those who make software when implementing bulk payments or merchant payments. They act as a go-between between MNOs and banks.”

Anne went on to describe Vital Wave’s six-month pilot project on bulk payments in Uganda. Here are just some of the fascinating details... With 50% phone ownership amongst participants, 1 of 5 of those having a bank account, many living in poverty and most dealing in cash, Vital Wave helped modernize systems. Through mobile wallets and training, they saw a 10%−15% drop in costs through mobile payments and increased employee satisfaction (less cash meant more safety). Experience also showed that an aggregator can help a bank negotiate with an MNO quicker than working with the MNO directly.

After we were all on the same page about what aggregators are and do and how they’re useful, Anne followed up with some helpful Dos and Don’ts for engaging with them. Here are a few:

When working with an aggregator,

  • Do make sure you’re ready for a change in mindset—both yours and your customers’ (centralizing customer service will be a shift for them).
  • Do look at business requirements and complete a thorough selection process, including due diligence.
  • Do recognize there’ll be setup and configurations needed in backend connections and operations.
  • Don’t expect the aggregator will help you with fraud or liquidity issues or help you manage your agent network—but they can help in other ways like perhaps transferring delays by floating money for up to a week.
  • Don’t be surprised that, on a per transaction basis, an aggregator can be more expensive than going directly to an MNO but costs will go down with scale and, as Anne pointed out, it’s still cheaper than dealing with cash.

Lessons learned across Africa

This session delivered details on current rural agent models, from across the continent. Mike (a Principal Consultant on Strategic Operations for Digital Finance with MicroSave) kicked it off by talking about the Agent Network Accelerator programme.

The programme is in the process of completing detailed assessments of more than 25 agent networks in eight countries (20,000 of a planned 40,000 client interviews conducted so far—wow!). It also launched The Helix Institute of Digital Finance (the Gates Foundation, IFC and UNCDF are partners) to provide training to digital financial service providers.

From the research, Mike said they’re still seeing cash-in/cash-out dominate the game at the agent level. Three value propositions—person-to-person payments, airtime top-ups and bill payments—add up to 90% of transactions. Next, Mike turned to new paradigms in value propositions: savings, credit, insurance, financial management tools, etc. To get us thinking, he asked us which formal financial product can do better than a chicken in terms of meeting a client’s short-term liquidity needs. That got us talking...too much to cover here!

From there, Mike turned the conversation to ‘next generation’ frontier agents (what the research is telling us about who they are and what motivates them), how they should be selected (their attributes like security, accessibility, footfall, trust, transaction patterns and sales/marketing abilities) and finally liquidity management. For all these topics, we ‘traveled’ across Africa to Asia and back again, hearing real-world examples and research results from Mike and fellow participants.

Come back soon for more ‘fly-on-the-wall’ reports from DFSgoRURAL.

In the field exploring DFS user journeys


February 26, 2015 - 16:14 -- karima.wardak
Blog For: 
Feb 26, 2015
DFSgoRURAL Field Visit Impressions

Yesterday was THE day: we met with DFS agents and clients. After a briefing on customer journeys that included visualizing the headaches agents and clients may face, we set out at 10 a.m. Leaving the city with our 14 groups, dispatched to seven different villages, was the easy part of the trip in jammed Kampala; the return planned between 4 and 5 p.m. proved to be more troublesome. Some groups did not make it till 8 p.m. but still had the energy to wrap up their exercise!

While on the bus, participants studied and rehearsed their roles for the interviews in groups of 8 to 10. From translator, to facilitator, to persona builder, to visualizer, to headache identifier and note taker—we covered it all. With all these roles shared across each group, we ensured we’d capture what clients and agents undergo in detail with words and drawings. The objective was to discover how clients and agents move from the first impression or awareness of services to the courting phase and then the marriage phase.

Walking and talking through these 14 journeys proved to be an eye opener for many participants. They saw and heard issues they hadn’t considered before. In our group, we interviewed four different clients who helped us map a persona named Moses, a married farmer with two kids.

During the interviews, the clients brought Moses to life through a story of his steps on a DFS journey: from hearing about the service to deciding to apply for it to actually registering (with a lot of effort) and finally to using it. After going back and forth to the agent, cutting out his wedding picture to provide the required passport photo and showing his ID that his local chairman provided, Moses finally registered. But, his journey only just started. He had to wait about two weeks to get his account activated. Once on board, Moses had headache after headache, hurdle after hurdle. It made actually using the service hard and spoiled his initial excitement about finding a place to keep his money safe from envy and theft.

  • Literacy is a big headache for Moses. He can’t read the forms or the SMS he gets, not to mention the terms and conditions he agrees to.
  • Network issues make withdrawals or deposits nearly impossible. After a 15-kilometre walk or bike ride, it can be really upsetting.
  • Mistyping an account number means transferring money to the wrong person. The process to get your money back is long—very long—and tiresome.
  • Mistyping a PIN means getting the phone blocked. Getting a new PIN activated takes yet again far too long and means many more trips to the agent to follow up on the issue.

All in all, Moses’ journey is not an easy one. It made our participants, from mobile network operators, financial service providers and central banks, think about solutions to make the registration smoother and the usage of services a more pleasant experience. Improving Moses’ journey will help increase uptake and usage of mobile money services in Uganda where only a third of the adult population use DFS. Mobile money usage, along with other efforts, will support financial inclusion in rural areas.

Stay tuned to hear more about the user journeys we built and the ingredients to go rural that we will continue exploring.

Participants discussing ingredients to go rural


February 25, 2015 - 16:14 -- karima.wardak
Blog For: 
Feb 24, 2015
DFSgoRural Ingredients to go Rural breakout sessions

Tuesday afternoon, we got down to details in six breakout sessions. ‘Participatory’ was the watchword, with all the speakers getting us thinking and talking about the ingredients for DFS to go rural.

  • Working with agriculture/farmers with John Magnay of Opportunity International
  • Linking with savings groups with Sybil Chidiac of CARE International
  • Working with aggregators with David Darkwa of Vital Wave, an aggregator in Uganda
  • Making bank/mobile network operator partnerships work with Jennifer McDonald of Women’s World Banking
  • Lessons learned across Africa with Mike McCaffrey of The Helix Institute of Digital Finance - MicroSave
  • Financial education for rural expansion and digital financial services with Jessica Massie of Reach Global, Aly Ouédraogo of Freedom from Hunger and Marie Pascaline of Réseau des Caisses Populaires du Burkina

It was hard to choose which sessions to attend, but here are some impressions from a couple of them…

Working with agriculture/farmers

Participants at this session really varied: there was a good number of people from banks/microfinance institutions and funders, but mobile network operators, governments and support organizations were also represented. 75% were already doing some form of agricultural finance. Together, it meant for a lively Q&A.

John started out by asking for participants’ concerns with their current rural finance strategies. Collection, capital, markets, value chains, costs of operation, dropouts, price risks, weather problems, land issues—we put it out there.

One participant from a mobile network operator noted, “I am in an economy that is highly influenced by agriculture. I see a cyclical nature in the use of mobile money based on agricultural season. With seasonal fluctuations, I start to worry… what is happening with my customers??!! But it turns out they are just cycling seasonally. We should plan around that and figure out how to respond to that cyclical demand.”

As Head of Agriculture at Opportunity International (and with nearly 40 years in African agricultural development to boot), John assured us that these are common challenges and would share how Opportunity International had dealt with them. And with that, we got into the nitty gritty—with both John and participants weighing in—to discuss how farmers are different from other clients, their specific financial needs, the best channels and models to reach them, and of course the challenges to reach them.

John summed up, “Agricultural finance is complex and certainly requires an understanding of the agricultural sector and value chains. But, there are very few businesses in which you can invest $1 and get $2–$3 back, which is entirely possible with farming.”

Linking with savings groups

This session started out with a number: 9.3 million. That’s the number of savings group members worldwide. Village savings and loans, a savings-group model developed by CARE International, reach 61 countries, count over 6 million participants and boast some of the highest repayment rates in the industry.

Sybil, a Senior Technical Advisor with CARE, also defined savings groups and how they function. With so many women and farmers already in savings groups—buying shares, setting interest rates, deciding loan terms—it’s easy to see how financial service providers are getting excited about the potential of linking with them as an efficient way to ‘go rural.’

Wasting no time, Sybil got us into small groups to talk specifics. One group brainstormed key features and functionality of a group account on a mobile wallet. The other talked terms and conditions of a group savings product. Finally, we discussed agents: who the potential agents are for these kinds of linkages and what incentives can be used with them.

It was a full day, for sure. Wednesday promises no less: we’ll be taking our discussions out of the meeting room and into the field. All 150 of us will be on field visits in the area of Kakiri. Stay tuned.

Reaching rural Ugandans with digital financial services: What do we need to know?


February 25, 2015 - 15:45 -- karima.wardak
Blog For: 
Feb 24, 2015
DFSgorural - InterMedia presenting

By Dr. Anastasia Mirzoyants-McKnight - InterMedia

In the past decade, the international development community has been focusing a lot of efforts in promoting innovative digital financial services to rural consumers and rural communities, especially in Africa, where the high incidence of rural residency and poor infrastructure make it challenging to reach the population through traditional banking strategies.

When considering the best channels to reach farmers with financial services, including digital ones, it is important to understand how rural residents are different from other clients/consumers in terms of their financial needs and challenges. Based on the InterMedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights research, there are four key features that define rural Ugandans’ financial behaviors.

Blending of family and farm: Three-quarters of rural Ugandans are engaged in agriculture (73%) with overwhelming majority in subsistence farming, meaning they grow crop/livestock and consume most of the produce themselves. Such subsistence farms tend to employ almost exclusively household members because they cannot afford hired labor. Hence, there is little distinction between the farm and the household/family when it comes to planning incomes and budgeting expenses. The farm is the source of welfare for the household while the household is the source of the farm’s sustainability. Such blending means that most of the financial activities of rural Ugandans are focused on the family and/or the farm. For example, the top-three reasons for borrowing are to pay education fees (23% of borrowers), make routine purchases (22%) and reinvest in business (22%). The top-three reasons for savings are to protect family from poverty and crime (45% of savers), reinvest in business (41%), and make ends meet (35%).

High incidents of extreme poverty: 78% of rural Ugandans live below the poverty line (live on less than $2.50 a day). This rate is 10 percentage-points higher than the country average. Furthermore, 66% of rural Ugandans say their monthly income only covers basic expenses (i.e., food and clothes) while 21% have to borrow to pay routine bills every month. As a result, there is always a cost of missed opportunities for the little money rural Ugandans manage to accumulate, regardless what they do with the money. When they choose to place the money on a formal savings account, the cost is especially high because the money is not invested in either of the two priorities – family or farm.

Complex financial lives: While rural incomes might be small, rural adult’s financial needs are bigger than those of urban residents. In addition to the basic needs for food, cloths, shelter and security, rural residents need to cover expenses related to their farming activities and logistical expenses related to their remoteness and the lack of adequate infrastructure in rural areas. Hence, the financial lives of rural Ugandans are very complex because they are always engaged in the balancing act of borrowing, repaying, receiving, sending, saving and spending – all at the same time, which require a lot of discipline and priority-driven budgeting.

Interestingly, this complexity is transferred to the application of mobile money services. While rural registered users in Uganda are still few (24% of the group), the use cases defy the historical assumption that mobile money in rural areas serve only as a channel to deliver remittances from urban areas. In fact, only 54% of rural users even receive person-to-person transfers (Figure 1). Others use mobile money accounts to send P2P transfers, save money, receive wages, make business transactions or pay bills.

Figure 1. Percentage of rural mobile money account holders (n=549) who use their accounts for selected activities.

DFSgoRural-InterMedia FII tracker survey 2015

Source: InterMedia Uganda FII Tracker survey (N=3,001, 15+), June-July 2014.

Seeking security but taking risks with informal financial tools: Rural Ugandans understand the idea of financial shock preparedness, likely because their wellbeing is frequently and directly affected by the instability of weather conditions, market price volatility, questionable quality of agricultural inputs and so on. Hence, 36% of rural Ugandans have a plan on how to cope with emergency situations and 33% have an emergency fund at least sometimes. Yet, most rural residents continue taking risks by relying almost exclusively on informal financial tools when managing their money. For example, 35% of those who store saved funds in a hiding place where money is vulnerable to robbery, fire or flood. Similarly, 56% borrow from other people under agreements, which leave repayment terms open to lender’s interpretation/desire. While reliance on extended family or close informal networks in their financial activities provide rural Ugandans with trust-through-familiarity reassurance, it also brings high level of vulnerability because most of adversities – natural disasters, pest attacks, fires – affect everyone in such closed networks. This means that when facing an emergency, rural Ugandans might not be able to source emergency funds because their lenders or those who borrowed from them are facing the same emergency situation.

Opening speech sets tone for learning event


February 23, 2015 - 12:51 -- admin.uncdf
Blog For: 
Feb 24, 2015

UNCDF Deputy Director of Inclusive Finance John Tucker opened the first full day of sessions at DFSgoRURAL today, inviting us to examine how we can reach deeper into rural areas with digital financial services (DFS). From the start, we’ll be going rural—on field visits tomorrow with the entire group of 150 participants, spread over seven different villages in the area of Kakiri. And, it’s clear, we’ll be doing a lot of sharing and learning from one another. John set the stage for the visits and all the workshop’s sessions with a goal: to promote inclusive, sustainable and equitable growth. But, he also pointed out there are big questions about what that growth will look like and how it will be achieved. So, first, he focused on areas of consensus:

  • Technology—We all see how the rapid spread of new information and communications technology is making more services available to the world’s poor. In short, access to mobile phones can be a game changer, particularly to the 2.5 billion adults without access to financial services right now.
  • Agriculture—With so many of the poor depending on agriculture for food and income, it’s also clear that financial services for agricultural households are absolutely key. The quote John shared from a colleague says it all: “If you aren’t working with smallholder households, you aren’t serious about financial inclusion.”

With those game changers in mind, John turned to what UNCDF is doing to support digital financial inclusion. He touched on four major initiatives, two of which we heard more about from the managers of the programmes in a panel discussion later in the session:

  • MicroLead is responding to the rural vacuum of services in an impressive 21 countries, on 29 projects, with 39 institutions. With MicroLead’s focus on alternative delivery channels for rural areas and its plan to reach over a million more small depositors (on top of 700,00+ from its first phase), John recognized that many of our workshop’s participants—MicroLead partners—will have a lot to share.
  • Mobile Money for the Poor is working in a select group of eight countries to support dozens of partners—banks, mobile network operators, regulators and users—to build strong DFS ecosystems that reach the poor. John again called on the workshop’s participants, many of us partners of the programme, to weigh in during the sessions.

Taking it ‘home,’ John pointed out that being in Uganda will offer all of us a chance to see one of the fastest growing DFS ecosystems in the world and—this is especially exciting—to hear the latest consumer research from InterMedia and the Gates Foundation, just completed late last year and published a few weeks ago, from Uganda and several other countries.

With those teasers, John left us excited and ready to jump into the rest of the workshop’s sessions. Later on in this blog you can read more about the ingredients for DFS to go rural that will be discussed in six different breakout sessions (see the programme here [addlink]). We will also share first impressions and results from the field visits where we will explore the journeys and pain points agents and low-income clients face in rural areas when applying for or using DFS.

Welcome to DFS Go Rural


February 20, 2015 - 08:26 -- admin.uncdf
Blog For: 
Feb 20, 2015

Event Objective

The main objectives of the 2015 Workshop are to expose participants to cutting edge initiatives in branchless banking which will allow Financial Service Providers (FSPs) to reach deeper into rural areas, create/solidify the foundations of a community of practice among MM4P and MicroLead stakeholders, and share and learn. This event will achieve these objectives by:

  • Creating the opportunity for face to face knowledge and experience sharing inside and outside the areas of practice of partners i.e. bridge the understanding gap between MNOs and financial service providers and the gaps among practitioners from diverse origins.
  • Exposing participants to the Uganda Mobile Money market.
  • Building a community of practice among grantees that will have the potential to last beyond the programmes.
  • Learning from grantees and disseminating these learning beyond those present at the workshop.
  • Increasing capacity among grantees.


The venue for the stay and workshop will be Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda. The workshop will be 4 days residential programme which starts on 24th February, 2015, and will close in the afternoon of 27th February, 2015. Participants are invited to an opening reception on the Monday 23rd February from 18:00 to 20:00.  A field visit in Kakiri is planned on 25th February.


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