The financial diaries revealed useful insights into young people's savings, spending and income behavior

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Our 'Young people in Africa' research focuses different age groups of young people ‒ in three countries: Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal. It examines their experience in respect to financial inclusion, support structures and opportunities for young entrepreneurs. The main methodologies employed included a 13-week diary study, in addition to macro-quantitative analyses of publicly available data and qualitative research.

Savings  Patterns Young People


A generation of savers
Young people engage in a broad variety of economic activities, ranging from hairdressing and welding to working in the music industry. They also save, mostly to smooth fluctuations in their living costs, buy more expensive items, or ensure they have money to cover unforeseen emergencies. As young adults, they may save to buy a car, a home, or to pay bride price.

Earning money
Diary respondents’ net daily incomes ranged from US$1.05 among mid-teens to US$3.75 among young adults in Morocco, US$0.52 among mid-teens to US$8.58 among young adults in Nigeria and from US$0.19 among mid-teens to US$1.64 for young adults in Senegal.

Youth spending patterns


The more young people earn, the more they save
Many young people are regular savers. In Nigeria and Senegal about a third of weekly diary observations saw some sort of saving by young people. This suggests that more than half of diary participants in the two countries engaged in saving during the survey period. Savings activity was much less evident in Morocco – barely one-in-six survey responses indicated a saving event – but even this is compatible with up to half the survey group saving at some point during the survey period. Overall, there is a positive correlation between economic activity and saving. Furthermore, young people generally become less financially dependent upon their parents as they move through life stages.

Youth income patterns


Many want to become entrepreneurs
One of the most striking findings from both our diary and our qualitative research was the desire among many young people in each of the countries we studied to become entrepreneurs. Among our diary respondents, just 6% of those in our Moroccan sample operated a microenterprise, whilst 43% had a full-time job. In Nigeria, 13% were entrepreneurs and 30% employed, while in Senegal 5% were entrepreneurs and 13% employed. Yet when asked about their ambitions, in Morocco, 66% declared an aspiration to self-employment, 81% did so in Nigeria and 64% in Senegal. At national level, Gallup World Poll data for 2018 shows actual employment among 15-24 year olds in Morocco balanced fairly evenly between waged and self-employed. In Nigeria more than three times as many people were self-employed (52%) as in employment (17%), whilst in Senegal 28% were self-employed, compared to 20% in employment.

Social expectations and gender influence behaviour and financial inclusion
Social expectations introduce gender-related issues that influence financial inclusion. Patterns vary. In Nigeria, both young women and young men are expected to marry around the age of 25. In Senegal and Morocco, it may be acceptable for young women to work, but they are often expected to end formal employment when they marry. Social expectations based on gender influence financial behaviours.


Driving formal savings: What works for low-income women

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Gender-inclusive products need to be designed with women’s needs in mind. Yet, the real question remains: What services do female customers value, prioritize and need? This learning paper aims to contribute to the growing evidence base around this topic, building on findings from a recent Scale2Save Customer Research.

While financial inclusion is expanding globally, the gender gap in access to financial services and products persists. To close the gender gap in financial inclusion and improve women’s meaningful use of financial services, there is a clear need for financial service providers to transition toward gender-aware strategies to build tailored products that create opportunities for women and lower barriers in their lives.

This paper found that by carefully crafting the customer experience for women, financial service providers considerably amplified the adoption of formal savings products, thus significantly expanding their customer base while also contributing to financial inclusion for a traditionally excluded customer segment, such as women.

Scale2Save is WSBI’s most recent programme for financial inclusion. It operated in six African countries.

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Digital Financial Inclusion in Nigeria and Uganda: opportunities and remaining challenges

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Earlier this year, the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WBSI) programme for financial inclusion, Scale2Save, through the support of the Mastercard Foundation, hosted in-person knowledge exchange
events in Nigeria and Uganda. The workshops were attended by practitioners and experts from the financial sector, research institutions, civil society, and the media. Across the two events there were many
interesting discussions, however, the potential and challenges around digital financial inclusion (DFI) was a recurring theme across the two events. In this note we summarize key challenges and opportunities
for digital financial inclusion discussed during the two events as well as examples from Scale2Save partners and publications.

Authors: Amy Oyekunle and Daniel Joloba

This note was prepared by the Mastercard Foundation Savings Learning Lab, a six-year initiative
implemented by Itad to support learning among the Foundation’s savings sector portfolio programmes:
Scale2Save and Savings at the Frontier

DFI means providing digital access to formal financial services to excluded and underserved populations. Digital technology has played a significant role in changing the sector and advancing financial inclusion in recent years. This was particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an increased uptake of cashless services and clients using e-banking services, including mobile banking, Point-of-sales (PoS) transactions, and card payments. The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) estimates the volume of ATM transactions has grown exponentially in the last six years, more than doubling since 2015 to over 850M in 20191 and USD 340,314 mobile payments per day in Uganda by 20212 Additionally, data from Bank of Uganda (BoU)3 indicates that the number of active debit cards increased by 12.4% from 2.59m in March 2021 to 2.91m in March 2022 while debit card transaction volumes increased by 28.01% from 4.4 million transactions in March 2021 to 5.68 million in March 2022. Credit card transaction volumes increased by 62% from 142,350 to 230,910 transactions over the same period. However, there is an indication that digital transactions are declining and returning to pre-Pandemic levels and there are still challenges that need to be overcome if digital is to deliver on its transformational potential. Challenges such as the limited interoperability for card payments as well as cyber security threats still hamper the wider use of the digital platform

What are those challenges, and why do they matter
Digital platforms can expand access to financial services, but they also exclude. Access to financial services, particularly digital financial services is highly gendered and fraught with inequalities Usage of digital accounts remains low: there has been a steady increase in digital accounts being opened
– 45.3 million bank accounts were opened in Nigeria in January 20226

Infrastructure for digital transactions can be a barrier to access DFS: connectivity, electricity and
infrastructure required for digital financial inclusion are not always present or reliable in rural areas

Regulations have improved but are still a barrier to many potential customers: Even though the Central
Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has simplified the Know-your-client (KYC) regulations required for clients to open
accounts through the three-tier system of using the Bank Verification Number and National IdentificationNumber (NIN), FSPs say this is still a challenge.

Risks associated with digital transactions are high: Increased cases of accidental transactions and
security breaches associated with telcos and mobile apps are a deterrent to customers, diminishing trust
in an already fragile ecosystem.



Driving financial resilience through formal savings among the low-income population

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This paper provides a syntesis of research findings that help understand to what extent savings allow customers to increase financial resilience, being a key learning question for the programme.

For customers unable to use savings to cope with shocks, they primarily faced physical and service related challenges to using their savings for resilience purposes, in addition to barriers posed by the product features.

Approximately 70% of the FSP’s customers reported having used part of their savings.

FSP's customers using their savings

The research observed notable differences in financial security between young adults and older adults; young adults were more frequently unemployed, studying, or working temporary jobs compared to older adults. This was also reflected in reported incomes, as a higher proportion of young adults are earning less than
or around the national minimum wage in the target countries than older adults. Young customers were more likely to have been saving informally (42%), or not saving at all
(15%) prior to opening their savings accounts, compared to adult customers. This underlines the program’s impact in deepening access to formal savings products for young customers. Young customers were most compelled to save in case of unexpected emergencies, as reported by an average of 44% of them. (By comparison 34% of adults were saving for unexpected emergencies.) Given that the majority of young customers opened their savings accounts during the COVID-19 pandemic and have lower earnings
than adults, it is not surprising that many aimed to establish ‘safety nets’ that would enable them to cope with unforeseen emergencies.
Additionally, about 30% of young customers were also saving toward a specific goal, such as a dowry, celebration, studies, or others. Lastly, a quarter of young customers were saving with the intent of investing in a business. Research commissioned by Scale2Save in 2019 found that young adults exhibited a strong preference for self-employment. Young adults expressed a greater preference for self-employment over a steady job, and this appeared to strengthen with age. This study also found that young adults, and particularly young men seek to diversify their income sources to reduce risk. Together these factors likely contributed to young adults’ increased resilience to provide for their futures.

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

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A Customer Onboarding Comparative Analysis

At its inception in 2016, the Scale2Save Program (referred to as the Program in this report) set out to acquire one million customers through 10 innovative projects across the six countries of Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Morocco.

All 10 projects were uniquely defined by a product/service mix that targeted diverse sectors and market segments of the local economies – ranging from micro, small and medium enterprise (MSMEs) to agriculture to micro-insurance.

As the Program is wrapping up, this publication looks at the strategic operations and tactics applied by the Scale2Save partners in East and West Africa to acquire customers.

An attempt is also made to analyse the quality and impact of the level of effortand investment made, evidently at varying degrees, against the outcomes that were delivered, particularly regarding the experience a customer gets through that first touchpoint

Objective of the Case Study

This case study sets out, ab initio, to validate the dynamic nature of customer targeting and acquisition, and the varying degrees of success that accompany each tactical approach. While not in doubt that in effect, a combination of tactics would ordinarily be desirable to achieve the expected outcomes, it is safe to assume that one or two dominant tactics tend to carry the greatest burden of the customer acquisition drive for any product or service.

Download the Comparative Analysis

September 2022



What constitutes a viable business model for small scale savings?

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Problems of high poverty rates and financial exclusion in sub-Saharan Africa, the correlation between them, and low formal savings rates, remain a major concern.

The market potential of various low-income segments to save is poorly understood by many formal financial service providers (FSPs). Customer and potential customer needs – and how much they can and/or wish to afford to pay to meet those needs – are inadequately reflected in FSP’s business models, customer interfaces and interactions. The resulting poor customer experience gives rise to very high incidences of dormancy and inactivity in account usage. This represents a significant drain on bank costs and undermines potentially sustainable business cases in delivering accessible financial services to these segments.

Why reading this new learning paper ?

This paper highlights 3 different business models for small scale savings including key revenues and costs drivers developed by Centenary Bank in Uganda, Lapo Microfinance Bank in Nigeria and Advans Microfinance Bank in Ivory Coast

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Persona Segmentation Toolkit

Scale2Save Campaign

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Data is an essential tool for creating customer-centric financial products and services that are sustainable for financial service providers and truly work for low-income customers.

To drive inclusive finance in Nigeria, EFInA and WSBI’s Scale2Save programme are launching the Persona Segmentation Toolkit which allows bankers to use the EFInA financial access data, demographic, and socio economic household data in a simple, practical way.
The toolkit is an online interactive data portal to support market development and data-driven product development

The advantages of the toolkit :

  • Determine the size of business development opportunities specifically for under-served market segments, such as smallholder farmers, informal traders, and young people.
  • Offering insights into customer characteristics, such as livelihoods, income, and financial portfolios
  • Support strategic business development discussions and segmented product innovation process.


Access Toolkit

A guidebook and video will help financial sector professionals, consultants and researchers to navigate the portal

Watch the VideoBrowse the guidebook


Unpacking the customer through demand side data

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Téléchargez l'étude de casDownload the case study

WSBI's Scale2Save programme launched the sixth case study of its Savings and Retail Banking in Africa research series. The publication 'Unpacking the customer through demand side data' gives examples of financial service providers who have used public data to develop customer-centric products and services.

Available in English and French, it presents examples of financial service providers (FSPs) who have used data to better understand and serve low-income customers by developing customer-centric solutions. It includes examples from WSBI members Awash Bank Ethiopia, BRAC Uganda Bank Limited and Zambia’s Zanaco.

Why read this case study?

Because it shows that data and research are valuable tools to acquire and retain customers and expand the customer base. This is crucial to attracting new customers in Africa, where informal employment is commonplace.

The development of customer centric products and operations helps ensure that customers who engage with the bank continue to do so, by aligning products with customer needs, and retiring them if they no longer do.


From Ideation to Iteration: Human-Centered Design of Micro-Savings in Nigeria

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Micro savings, maximum impact.

Five lessons from LAPO Microfinance Bank’s experience using HCD to revamp their child savings account product

By Irene Wagaki


In 2019, LAPO Microfinance Bank of Nigeria undertook an audacious goal to onboard over 168,000 savers in three years through a child savings account. To help them meet this goal, management decided to use a Human-Centered Design (HCD) process to evaluate and revamp their offering. The My Pikin & I account, which means “My Child and I,” seeks to motivate consistent savings through incentives including micro-insurance for mothers and scholarships for their children.

Read it on FinDev Gateway

With the support of WSBI’s Scale2Save programme for financial inclusion and, the LAPO team conducted a two-phased HCD process. The first phase involved research, synthesis and ideation, and the second phase was prototyping, iteration and refining. Immersive research techniques such as observation, interviews and focus groups were used, followed by synthesis of findings to draw persona maps and insights that fed into the ideation activities.

Here’s what we learned through this process:


Make sure you have a specific strategic outcome in mind that human-centered design can address. In the case of the My Pikin & I product, the goals became clear upon holding initial stakeholder sessions with LAPO Microfinance Bank’s senior management teams. They sought to attract new clients and motivate them to save consistently, thus helping them attain the MFI’s goal for deposit mobilization. HCD was needed to realize that goal as it centers on clients’ personal needs and aspirations while meeting the institution’s strategic goals.


Keep it simple. Co-creating with customers requires simplified prototypes. The HCD process helped LAPO Microfinance Bank make communication materials more accessible to its target audience. During the prototyping exercises, customers suggested rewording the messaging to show the benefits one incentive at a time rather than providing loads of information in one poster.


Find out what motivates your clients and capitalize on it. Immersive customer interviews helped the LAPO Microfinance Bank team realize that the ability to save was not enough of a motivation for customers. They needed to see tangible benefits from the start in order to save consistently. So the team added a microinsurance incentive, offering premium-free coverage against accident and critical illness, that is tied to consistent savings behaviour. According to the product roadmap, LAPO Microfinance Bank plans to extend the cover to include health insurance. The design team was also intrigued to discover that customers preferred to keep their physical cashbooks as evidence of their savings rather than rely on the fully digitized system the team had designed. This finding provided an opportunity for LAPO Microfinance Bank to build trust by offering a redesigned physical cashbook, thus reinforcing the physical attachment to the cashbook as well as providing a savings tracking tool. Complementary evidence of transactions is also provided via SMS confirmation.


Customer-facing agents and personnel require the right tools, not just training. LAPO’s “aha” moment came when they realized that staff didn’t actually need more training on how to explain products’ features to new customers. What they really needed was a handy tool for onboarding customers. The design team created a visual pitch of the My Pikin & I product that spoke to the target customers’ aspirations, needs and concerns. The videos serve as explainers and are displayed on a tablet as part of the customer onboarding process.


Take advantage of the transformative potential of the HCD process. At its core, HCD is a highly collaborative process. LAPO’s team brought together people from many different departments, including savings, research, agency banking and customer service. They all participated in prototyping exercises with customers, using the feedback they received to adjust product design. This experience brought about organizational transformation for LAPO Microfinance Bank, as it helped to impart new skills, break hierarchy barriers and develop more innovative mindsets.

Next steps for LAPO: Experimentation Phase

After going through the HCD process, LAPO Microfinance Bank implemented the My Pikin & I product with a heavy on-ground presence of agents and roving staff. These agents continue to complement the bank’s physical and digital banking channels, especially in rural locations.

Their efforts have been successful. Since the products’ re-launch in 2019, over 125,000 new customers have joined LAPO Microfinance Bank and opened My Pikin & I accounts. However, the microinsurance incentive has not experienced a proportionate increase in uptake, with only 7,400 insurance takers. For LAPO Microfinance Bank to optimize the My Pikin & I product fully with its go-to-market strategies, the next step would be an experimentation phase to study which insurance benefits are most effective in sustaining a positive savings behavior.

Ultimately, the human-centered design process should be incorporated as an ongoing way of doing business, as it can help the MFI keep its clients’ needs and desires at the forefront, while also working towards the institutions’ goals.


About the author

Irene Wagaki works as a consultant for WSBI’s Scale2Save programme for financial inclusion in Africa. She is a behavioral researcher and designer at Lime Group Africa with experience in leading Human-Centered Design for digital financial services, savings, microinsurance, financial literacy and agri-business interventions. She holds an MBA and certifications in Behavioral Science, Human Centered Design and Digital Identity.


Digital platforms serving the agricultural sector

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BRUSSELS, 18 November 2021 - The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) programme for financial inclusion, Scale2Save, launched today ‘A case study on digital platforms serving the agricultural sector’, the fifth of its State of the Savings and Retail Banking Sector in Africa research series.

This new publication, co-authored with FinMark Trust, an independent non-profit trust for making financial markets work for the poor, explores the topic from the point of view of Financial Service Providers (FSPs). It aims to answer two key questions FSPs must consider when weighing whether to launch an online platform for farmers: Why should I participate – and if I do, what must I keep in mind? This case study looks at a variety of African agricultural platform providers and more closely at three platform models: bank-led (First City Monument Bank in Nigeria), fintech-led (DigiFarm in Kenya) and telco-led (EcoFarmer in Zimbabwe).

The emergence of digital platforms serving farmers in Africa is of enormous importance as the agricultural sector employs more than half of the continent’s labour force, and accounts for almost 20% of the continent’s gross domestic product.

Platform models are still very new in the agricultural arena. However, the use of platform services to support smallholder farmers has blossomed. During the pandemic they proved a valuable lifeline, enabling farmers to stay in touch with their value chain partners, from financial service providers to farm input suppliers and off-takers.

Looking forward, agricultural digital platforms clearly have the potential to play a powerful role as a catalyst for financial inclusion and to transform the food sector into a more inclusive one that offers viable opportunities for smallholder farmers.

This case study is guided by the overarching objective of the WSBI research series, which is to inform FSPs about developments in the finance industry that affect services to low-income customers.

WSBI’s Scale2Save programme is a six-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.

The publication is available for download free of charge here.


Case study cover

The publication is available for download here.