Digital school loans for rural farmers
>> Learn more about Scale2Save
>> Discover: Advans Cote d’Ivoire
BRUSSELS, 10 July 2020 – Advans Cote d’Ivoire, a microfinance institution, serves 100,000 clients with a range of financial services, of which 30,000 are cocoa farmers.
This is a specific target market for Advans, one of the nine subsidiaries of Advans Group, as cocoa farmers remain largely financially excluded because they are often seen as too risky and costly to serve given the unforeseeable seasonal and macroeconomic effects on farming activities. Cooperatives therefore often pay farmers in cash, creating security problems with a high number of violent robberies and a lack of transparency. In addition, farmers are very vulnerable to unforeseen events and have difficulties in managing their household finances.
Advans Côte d’Ivoire approaches all product development taking into consideration the specific needs and challenges of their rural customers, especially their cash flows. In 2015, it launched the first tailored digital mobile solution for cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire. The solution enables farmers to access a specific digital savings package, offering them a dedicated savings account as well as a wallet to bank and bank to wallet transfer service in partnership with MTN. Farmers in remote areas can access the service directly from their mobile phones.
During its customer research with cocoa farmers, Advans discovered that 40% of its cocoa farmer clients had to send their children to school an average of two months late because they do not have the funds to pay school fees at the beginning of the year. Many borrow from money lenders but have to reimburse 200% of the amount three months later This prompted Advans to design a digital school fee loan. Farmers apply for the loans on their mobile menu during August and September, with repayments being made in October to January following the cocoa harvest. Farmers receive an automatic reply and if the amount they request is eligible, the loan is disbursed immediately. During the pilot, 242 producers benefitted from digital school credit for a total amount of EUR32,000, which they all payed back on time. In 2018 it had disbursed 1,118 digital school loans with more expected in the years following.
Farmers benefit from the digital school loan during their hardest time of the year, right before harvest. This time period is called the hunger gap – when cash is at its lowest but large, important expenses, such as school fees, are imminent. These loans improve farmers’ ability to cope during this difficult time and therefore build their resilience.
Advans uses a range of strategies to understand its customers and meet their needs. These include market research, in-person meetings with cooperatives and farmers, strong partnerships with cooperatives, experts and agribusinesses to leverage local capacity and knowledge. The digital school fee loan is just one example of how Advans responds to the evolving wants and needs of its target clients so as to accelerate financial inclusion.
Meet Lucien N’goran.
He is 38 years old and lives in a village that is 50 km away from the closest city. He is a cocoa farmer and a member of the cooperative CAFUB. He is married, and his wife is also a cocoa farmer selling fabrics. He has 5 daughters whom he has to send to school two months late because he usually does not have the funds to pay school fees at the beginning of the year. He asks his cooperative or relatives when he has financial needs. His priority is to save to pay his daughters studies and cope better with emergencies. Lucien has been working with Advans since August 2015.
Increasing resilence through financial inclusion: Provider-led solutions from West Africa
Low-income customers, especially women and rural populations, find themselves disproportionately vulnerable to shocks such as natural disasters and violence. They are also the least prepared to recover when a shock occurs given their limited access to and availability of risk mitigating strategies and tools. Many remain underserved, despite evidence showing that well-designed financial products and services can play a critical role in increasing low-income families’ resilience.
The Advans case study comes from a learning brief that showcases a range of well-designed financial products, services and engagement strategies that help increase low-income families’ resilience in countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria. Many low-income customers across these countries suffer from the inability to cover costs for unexpected expenditures and are unable to invest to ensure crops are climate resilient, though rely on the crops proceeds. In rural areas of Cote d’Ivoire farmers are often not prepared to cover large expenditures such as school fees as their cash flow are irregular and affected by weather patterns.
The financial services providers featured in this brief, published by Itad, give case studies provided by Scale2Save and Savings at the Frontier initiatives funded by the MasterCard Foundation. The cases studies explore approach product development and delivery with the need for building customer resilience as a key consideration.