BRUSSELS, 6 February 2018 – Nigeria's LAPO Microfinance Bank and WSBI recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to tackle low-income customers, particularly women's financial inclusion in Africa's most populous country.
Falling under WSBI's Making Small Scale Savings Work programme supported by the Mastercard Foundation, LAPO's project, called My Pikin and I, will use not only a mass-market, low-cost microsavings-insurance product through agent networks to reach women, but also team up with bodies such as the National Council for Women Societies NCWS. LAPO's savings and insurance bundle is an innovative approach that will allow low-income families to save up small portions of their income conveniently and flexibly in daily, weekly or monthly cycles. It is designed to cater to their needs in areas such as health coverage and their children's education.
Kunle Shittu, LAPO's Head of Corporate Communications & Branding, said: “Set for launch in April, the project is unique because it primarily targets economically productive parents, guardians and women between the ages of 20-50 in the low-income bracket. That requires us to think carefully about their specific needs and how they prefer to engage with us to raise their desire to save."
The work is important particularly for women in Nigeria as they face exclusion in several areas of society and usually bear the brunt of negative social and economic shifts. Some 28 million or about 56.2% adult women are either financially underserved or excluded, according to the EFInA Access to Finance Service in Nigeria Survey (2014). To help address this, “My Pikin and I" draws on research that concludes that women as a homogenous group have specific tastes. When they are lumped in with men as a group, data show women fare worse. To address this, LAPO has designed a different approach to communicate and deliver product to women. In fact, research shows women respond better to peer-to-peer and “cluster-focused" communication for consumer education and marketing efforts.
One example that reflects these factors is the planned low-balance savings offerings that impact children. The child-focused products are known to attract backing by women-only channels like NCWS to help deliver the offering. LAPO's women-focus products will be distributed through its existing channels too, thereby aligning with the bank's product and channel strategy. As the project seeks to deliver services through branchless banking channels such as stationary and roving agents as well as mobile banking, it presents the right fit and added boost to LAPO's evolving channel approach.
WSBI Managing Director Chris De Noose said: “Financial inclusion helps women beyond the savings account balance. Thanks to LAPOs close-to-customer approach, those who normally look to the informal sector can migrate more easily to the formal one. That means gaining access to socio-economic safety nets such as loans, healthcare and pensions. That access changes their lives."
The My Pikin and I project is designed as a part of LAPO's Agent Banking efforts, which is at the centre of LAPO's Alternative Delivery Channels Outlook. The Agent Banking project which was first piloted in December 2016 is one of LAPOs strategic moves to take its presence closer to the customer. The work has achieved major milestones since then, recruiting 76 agents, 1900 customers and more than 9 million Nigerian naira deposits mobilized. The project was fully launched in August 2017 with over a thousand Agents across the country within the first year.
LAPO's Shittu concluded: “My Pikin and I will succeed because we provide new ways to reach women based on research, data and first-hand knowledge. We also tap into the Agent Banking model, which works with viable businesses like supermarkets, post offices, boutiques and bookshops as agents. Harnessing these channels along with our branch network will improve our chances of success."
With a base of over 3 million customers and more than 400 branches, LAPO Microfinance Bank is Nigeria's largest Microfinance Bank accounting for over 25% of the microfinance market share. Known as a “pro-poor" organization, in its mission, LAPO seeks to improve the lives of the population at the bottom of the pyramid by providing life changing business capital in the form of loans that has helped moved thousands of Nigerians out of poverty. Established in the late 1980s as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), LAPO MfB obtained in 2010 the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria to operate as a state microfinance bank. It was granted approval in 2012 to operate as a national microfinance bank. LAPO's five-year strategic outlook to 2022 seeks to grow its customer base to 8 million customers. Learn more at: www.lapo-nigeria.org
WSBI represents the interests of 6,000 savings and retail banks globally, with total assets of $15 trillion and serving some 1.3 billion customers in nearly 80 countries (as of 2016). WSBI focuses on international regulatory issues that affect the savings and retail banking industry. It supports the aims of the G20 in achieving sustainable, inclusive, and balanced growth, and job creation, whether in industrialised or less developed countries. WSBI favours an inclusive form of globalization that is just and fair, supporting international efforts to advance financial access and financial usage for everyone. Learn more at: www.wsbi-esbg.org