What a journey it has been!

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

By Weselina Angelow

A basic account is a secure entry point for previously unbanked people to become financially more resilient. It also opens a whole world of opportunities – be it for investing in education for themselves or their children, or in growing their businesses.

In the words of one of the customers of a Scale2Save initiative, implemented in partnership with Centenary Bank:

“I got to know about CenteXpress account from my friend who helped me open the account. I learned about its benefits from my friend and I also

started opening accounts for other students (through the digital link feature)

I have greatly benefited from CenteXpress through the commissions that I have received for opening accounts for others. Further, my parents send me school tuition digitally via CenteXpress. I also use it to buy airtime. More importantly, it helps me save the little amounts that I can set aside from my tailoring business.”

Nakayima Magret, Student and tailor. Kikuubo, Masaka, Uganda.

Between 2016 and 2022 Scale2Save financially included more than 1.3 million women, young people and farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire that helped us better understand – especially in the midst of a pandemic – how, when and why savings contribute to household wellbeing, financial resilience or (creating) business opportunities of or for the people served.

  • Given that the majority of customers are low-income, investments in expanding, restarting, or opening a business can increase income quickly, thereby improving customers’ economic status and financial stability. On average, about 49% used their savings for investment purposes, and most of the time for business-related investments. Almost all financial service providers recorded use of savings for businesses purposes across nearly half of their customers who’d used their savings, 50% of them being male adults. Business investment was also common among adult women. This largely stems from the fact that certain partner FSPs purposely targeted female micro-entrepreneurs and encouraged them to save toward the purchase of a productive asset or another business-related goal. If small balance savings play such an important role for small businesses to sustain, how much more a loan attached to it can assure small business to grow and help create jobs? Something worth exploring going forward.
  • Beyond business investments, approximately 20% of customers used their savings to cover household needs or to finance educational needs.
  • 32% of customers across the target FSPs, indicated that they had experienced some type of shock since they opened their account. 65% of customers who reported experiencing one or multiple shocks indicated that they had used some of their savings to cope with these emergencies.
  • Gender and age aspects matter hugely, but also location and income levels for driving inclusive savings. The research observed differences between ways in which young female customers and young male customers used their savings. Young males more frequently use their savings for business-related purposes, while young females more often use savings for consumption smoothing and for other household-related expenses.

12 unique business models tested

Scale2Save tested and explored 12 very unique business models with a broad range of financial services partners to prove the viability of low balance savings and understand how the institutional model affects the ability to serve the low-income market. Seven of these service partners being WSBI members of which three (BRAC Uganda Bank Limited, Finca Uganda, LAPO Microfinance Bank Nigeria) joined the WSBI family through Scale2Save.

  • The variety of institutions created a whole world of experience that all worked towards the same goal: build partnerships and solutions that are intentional and simple but meet the needs of the specific customer segments they are serving.
  • Sometime this journey was painful, accompanied by repeated trial and error, endless data segmentation and interpolation, all accompanied by an enormous agenda for cultural change to sensitize all value chain actors for what it takes to offer digital savings to low-income people.
  • Here again, female preferences as for the type of information they wish to receive have to be taken into account. It was revealing to us that, across the board, product features seemed to matter less to women than information about channel features and fee structures followed by the need for personal touch points.
  • Digital has been a game changer throughout and not just during COVID but needs to be handled with a gender lens and accompanied by human touch if it is to be successful. If a product worked for women, it equally tended to work for men.
  • The local sales forces, roving agents, field officers, family & friends equipped with digital devices were incremental for creating the volumes of transactions and deposits needed for making the business case for small balance savings work.
  • Financial education – in particular personal nudges – that take women needs and the digital gender gap into account are considered incremental for improving digital account usage.

 

Research

Scale2Save became a strong brand and a community of practice that conducted useful sector research, collaborated with a wide array of sector players and that facilitates disseminating the learnings amongst our members and strategic partners.

Our sector research

For four years in a row, The State of Savings and Retail Banking Sector Series that we put out in partnership with FinMark Trust shed light on innovative models, applied by the now 27 WSBI member institutions in 20 countries on the African continent, sometimes enriched with insights from other sector players such as MNOs, Fintechs, the national Financial Sector Deepening units, the most recent on the state of SME Finance and separately on Innovative Agric Platform models on the African continent.

 

Collaboration with sector players

  • Jointly with Efina (the lead Financial Sector Development Organization in Nigeria) we piloted a customer segmentation tool that creates different customer personas and allows Nigerian financial sector players to define their pro-women or pro-youth financial outreach strategies and that has already generated interest from other financial markets.
  • Together with Centenary Bank and Bank of Uganda (BoU)– the Central Bank – we tested the CGAP customer outcome framework. This framework could help Ugandan FSPs to assess how they meet customer needs around safety, convenience, fairness, voice and choice of services. It can also help the Ugandan and other central banks to assess how the sector meets the goals of its financial inclusion strategy.
  • Insights from Scale2Save allowed us to participate in the European Microfinance Platform’s Action Group on better metrics for savings.

We now have a better understanding of the metrics that track high-level outcomes. This will help WSBI to better tell the story about the huge impact its network has to develop people, businesses and communities.

 

Ongoing dissemination of our learnings to the membership and the wider sector

Our national inclusion events with partners and ecosystem players in Lagos (Nigeria), in Kampala (Uganda) and our close out event in Paris (France) this year received overwhelming interest amongst a couple hundred sector players. In addition, Scale2Save will has put out more than 100 case studies, learning papers, industry reports and blog pieces over the course of its lifetime.

Scale2Save officially ended on 31 August and closed administratively over the course of October. The team however continues unpacking the learnings coming out of Scale2Save on women, youth and farmers, to highlight what drives their economic activity, empowerment and customer engagement, also with a view of continue contributing with learnings to WSBI member best practice exchange and to the ongoing conversation of industry players about financial services’ contribution to impact and wider outcome goals.

For the past six years, Scale2Save has highlighted our African members’ contribution to inclusive finance. Our aim is to have more members benefit from this experience and join our community of practice, which nurtures the role that WSBI members play. It has been a great pleasure to be part of this journey and we thank all our team members, partners institutions, consultants, researchers, national development bodies and policy makers as well as our sponsors the Mastercard Foundation for six years filled with learnings and excitement. We will continue sharing Scale2Save outcomes to keep the momentum alive and raise awareness of the power of the WSBI network.

About the author: Weselina Angelow is WSBI’s Scale2Save Programme Director.

Scale2Save


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

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

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.

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An opportunity for the banking sector to work with informal savings groups in Morocco

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

Télécharger l'étude de casDownload the case study

Tontine, an ancestral practice, is tending to modernize : thanks to digital technology

Tontine, an ancestral practice, is tending to modernize thanks to digital technology.
The objective of the research is to conduct a qualitative and quantitative study case based on qualitative and quantitative identifies opportunities related to the launch of a digital tontine offer. Tontine from an ancestral practice to a modernized version thanks to digital technology
Download the study in French or English to access key findings around mobile payment, funding sources, participation to informal savings groups, smartphone and mobile internet penetration in Morocco.

Scale2Save


Scale2Save brings Ugandan financial stakeholders to commit to financial inclusion

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

KAMPALA, 28 April 2022 – Key stakeholders of the Ugandan financial ecosystem came together during a Scale2Save knowledge sharing event, which concluded with a joint call to action with concrete steps to boost financial inclusion in the country.

Read the call to action

The signatories of this call to action, and initiative of the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) and its programme for financial inclusion, Scale2Save, are: the Uganda Bankers Association (UBA), Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU), The Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU), The Financial Technologies Service Providers Association (FITSPA), and the Mastercard Foundation.

“We are ready to work with all stakeholders to demonstrate the commitment of the industry, particularly in times of shocks. We are also ready to continue making contributions to the empowerment of low-income customers to seize economic opportunities, build resilience and, ultimately, have a better life”, state the signatories of the document.

This commitment was announced at the end of a 2-day Scale2Save event in Kampala entitled ‘Building resilience and economic empowerment for women and youth’ which brought together some 100 participants. Both the event and the call to action focused on the key drivers of financial inclusion such as customer-centricity, the potential of digital finance and sustainable business models.

Michael Atingi-Ego, Bank of Uganda’s Deputy Governor, described the current state of high financial exclusion of women and youth in the country during his keynote speech at the event.

“When you consider these observations about our lived reality, you start to see the imbalance that Scale2Save is attempting to address here today. This extent of financial exclusion of women and the youth tantamount to trying to balance a three-legged stool on one leg. This is unsustainable in a country that is working towards socio-economic transformation”, he said.

“I am pleased to participate in this event because the Bank of Uganda shares the objective of democratising access to and empowering the users of financial services, not least by championing the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, and through our strategic plan and operations. But like the multilegged stool, it will take the contribution of all stakeholders and partners to bring about universal financial inclusion,” added Mr Atingi-Ego.

Scale2Save is a six-year programme working six African countries including Uganda, where it partners with Centenary Bank, FINCA Uganda and BRAC Uganda Bank. Weselina Angelow is Scale2Save Programme Director. During the event, she presented some of the key lessons learned during the last years implementing financial inclusion initiatives in Uganda.

Download our learning paper on Digital Financial Inclusion in Nigeria and Uganda: opportunities and remaining challenges

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Scale2Save champions inclusive financial services for Nigerians

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

LAGOS, 30 March 2022 – The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI)’s programme for financial inclusion, Scale2Save, has reiterated the importance of inclusive financial services for Nigerian women, youths and farmers as a way to fuel the country’s economic recovery and growth. This was stated at the Scale2Save financial inclusion knowledge sharing event attended by key financial stakeholders across the country.

Watch the TV coverage

Scale2Save is a six-year programme of the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation aimed at establishing the viability of low-balanced savings accounts and to unravel the extent to which savings help vulnerable people in the society to boost their financial wellbeing.

In her keynote address, the Scale2Save Programme Director, Weselina Angelow, highlighted the importance of stakeholders’ knowledge sharing events such as this towards Nigeria’s quest for inclusive growth and economic development. According to her, “As we intensify efforts to improve financial inclusion, it is important that all stakeholders are a part of knowledge and insight-based discourse as this to improve on their processes and make informed financial inclusion decisions.”

Reiterating the commitment of Scale2Save and how the programme is impacting its members as well as other stakeholders, Angelow stated that the programme’s mission is to support financial inclusion initiatives to help millions of Nigerian youths, women and farmers.

“We focus on adding value to all stakeholders along the service value chain by empowering our financial service provider partners to become savings-driven, customer-centric institutions,” she said.

The Mastercard Foundation’s Access to Finance Lead, Mercy Mutua, stressed that financial inclusion is an enabler to help African youth find a way out of poverty.

We acknowledge that a lot has been accomplished but there is a long way to go to address barriers, especially for young rural women. It is Important to tailor solutions relevant to context and customer-centric,” she said in a virtual keynote speech.

Commenting on the need to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, the Head of Financial Inclusion Secretariat, Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Paul Ihuoma Oluikpe, stated that financial service providers must target specific customer needs with financial inclusion products.

“There are several products in our financial services space that are too generic. These products are not targeting any value proposition, and are not sufficiently differentiated at the customer level. While there are generic products that appeal to the larger audience, there is the need to drill down at the customer level to target different nuances that exist in the society,” Dr. Oluikpe said.

The WSBI’s 2019 financial service provider survey reveals that attitudes to financial inclusion and low-value savings among financial service providers in Nigeria and other key markets in Africa are being significantly transformed as they have intensified their focus on customers, targeting different groups with tailored accounts and savings products.

Despite the significant progress recorded so far, stakeholders believe that there is still a long way to go to attain a satisfactory level of financial inclusion. Confirming this, the Group Head of Financial Inclusion, FCMB, Adetunji Lamidi, said, “Financial illiteracy is a major barrier to financial inclusion. What we see is a situation where a lot of Nigerians still have this overdependence on the informal financial sector. It takes a long trust-building process to switch them from the informal sector they are familiar with into the formal sector. This is why most of the financial service providers have adopted agency banking where people within the neighbourhood are used as bank representatives. This helps to build confidence, trust and convenience into our financial inclusion strategy.”

Through the intervention of Scale2Save, Financial Service Provider (FPIs) partners continue to innovate products and services that are driving up inclusion among the key target groups. Scale2Save continues to drive the message of financial inclusion while engaging with key stakeholders in target countries that can help actualise the inclusion objective.

Download our learning paper on Digital Financial Inclusion in Nigeria and Uganda: opportunities and remaining challenges

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Digital platforms serving the agricultural sector

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

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.

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Case study cover

The publication is available for download here.

FULL CASE STUDY - ENFULL CASE STUDY - FRALL CASE STUDIES

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Digitalisation of financial service providers to serve low-income customers

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

New Scale2Save case study: BRUSSELS, 30 September 2021 - The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI)’s programme for financial inclusion, Scale2Save, launched today ‘A case study on connecting with low-income customers through digitalisation’, part of its State of the Savings and Retail Banking Sector in Africa research series.

Digitalisation is revolutionising the way financial service providers conduct their business. In Africa, the spread of mobile phones over the past two decades allowed the development of new forms of mobile transactions. Now digitalisation of African financial service providers is entering a new phase, as the widening use of mobile phones to access the Internet enables the roll-out of profitable digital services for low-income customers.

This new publication, co-authored with FinMark Trust, explores the answers to a question that many executives are asking: How best to digitalise a financial institution? The case study draws upon management consulting literature to assess digitalisation strategies in a pragmatic way. It also assesses three leading African financial organisations against this framework: Al Barid Bank, Morocco; Equity Bank, Kenya; and Consolidated Bank, Ghana.

The aim of this publication, as of the Scale2Save programme, is to identify the elements for financial service providers to serve low-income people and therefore boost financial inclusion. By opening the doors of remote access to formal savings and payments to people long excluded from them, these new customers get opportunities to improve their economic situation. They are enabled to smooth consumption, build assets, prepare against risks and improve their ability to cope and recover from shocks. In the context of Covid and its consequences, this case study highlights the importance of speeding up digitalisation by financial services providers not only in their service offer but also as dynamic organisations and as part of a digital financial ecosystem. It also underscores customer centred initiatives as a key to success.

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

Downloads

The publication is available for download here.

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Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: Advancing Digital Financial Inclusion in Morocco

Digitalization

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

Increased government-to-person payments help pave the way for a growth in mobile payment accounts.
As COVID-19 has severely limited travel and made it harder for people to visit bank branches, the quest for digital financial inclusion has become more important than ever. Many developing countries with strong cash cultures are now receiving support from governments as they take action to accelerate the move from cash to digital. During the last few months, governments have set up government-to-person (G2P) payments to send much-needed financial support to low-income families and small businesses, outside of the usual social protection mechanisms

Taking advantage of the opportunity in Morocco
Scale2Save’s project in Morocco, in partnership with Al Barid Bank and its payment institution subsidiary Barid Cash, has taken advantage of this opportunity to further our work digitizing G2P payments and developing a mobile payment ecosystem.

After strict lock-down measures imposed in March began to impact the economy, the Moroccan government released an emergency fund aimed at supporting low-income people. Grants ranged from $90 to $130 per month depending on household size and were disbursed in April and May. Beneficiaries could collect their grants in cash at any financial service provider (FSP) within the country.

With its large network of payment points within the country, Barid Cash became one of the disbursement centers where beneficiaries could receive their payments. As G2P recipients visited Barid Cash outlets to collect their grants, the FSP tried to incentivize them to open mobile payment accounts and thus shift from cash to account-based government transfers. Barid Cash used several methods to encourage the opening of mobile payment accounts, including:

Waiving the costs on mobile payment accounts for G2P beneficiaries.
Adding useful services such as water and electricity payments and mobile top-ups.
Conducting an information campaign to highlight the advantages of mobile payment accounts, which include quicker access to funds, avoiding queues at payment points and the “stay safe at home” advantage of digital transfers over cash.
Accessibility got a big boost when the Moroccan Central Bank, Bank Al-Maghrib, temporarily simplified account opening procedures during the pandemic, allowing anyone to open a basic payment account, capped at $555, without going to the branch. Based on a client’s phone number and digitized national ID card, the new rules deferred KYC (know-your-customer) regulations when a basic account opens.

A dip and then a significant increase
When the crisis first hit Morocco in March, client enrollment rates for Barid Cash suffered from the effects of the lockdown and lack of branch visits, going down 36 percent in March, compared to the average of January and February.

But the digital account narrative soon flipped. In April, the client enrollment rate jumped suddenly by more than 80 percent compared to March, and May experienced a similar growth rate. The spike in uptake came from the COVID-19 emergency funds released in April and May, as well as the measures taken by Barid Cash to persuade customers to open a payment account. The average client enrollment rate for April and May showed a 62 percent increase compared to the average of the pre-crisis period of January and February.

Lessons for building a digital payment ecosystem
From this experience, we have learned that agility is key. Barid Cash was able to act fast to become a key disbursement point for COVID-19 funds, and took advantage of this position to bring more clients into the mobile payment ecosystem. Bank Al-Maghrib served as a key enabler here, having decided to ease KYC requirements for remote opening of low balance accounts for the entire sector. There is hope that this measure is not temporary.

Clients also need a reason to switch to digital. Barid Cash paid attention to what their customers needed and used a mix of measures that met these needs to encourage the opening of mobile payment accounts.

In the end, circumstances also played an important role in building trust and confidence in a new service. For many lower income people, a digital payment account came at just the right time, when lockdown measures were making it very difficult to withdraw cash. Customers can now use these accounts going forward to access their money more quickly, send and receive funds and pay bills. We believe that these convenient features will encourage people to use their accounts more actively, thus helping to boost their economic resilience.

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