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A digital platform to financially include farmers in Côte d’Ivoire

A digital platform to financially include farmers in Côte d’Ivoire

>>> Read also the Tanzania Commercial Bank story

On the occasion of World Savings Day 2021, the Scale2Save programme of the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) highlights the work for financial inclusion it does with its partners in Africa. In the framework of Scale2Save, Advans Cote d'Ivoire, a microfinance institution, has developed a digital platform with the aim of taking down the barriers that small-holder cacao farmers face to access financial services and further develop their economic activities.


The challenge of access to financial services for rural populations


In Côte d'Ivoire financial inclusion remains a major issue as 44% of adults have never used formal or informal financial services.

Among the most affected are the socially disadvantaged and excluded layers of people, in particular women, the poor and those living in rural areas. It is important to point out that the poor financial education and the cost of financial products are all obstacles to access to financial services.

In 2017, Global Findex data also focus on the unbanked population. Indeed, the 2017 figures show that 8 million adults in Côte d'Ivoire do not have an account at a financial institution. Out of eight million unbanked individuals (59% adults) there are 52% women. The most common form of savings is home savings.

How to change this? The agricultural sector appears to be one of the sectors with great potential for financial inclusion. Indeed, smallholder farmers express the desire to acquire financial products for their households and their activities. However, very few have access to these products. (Source APIF2019 report).

Advans, an international microfinance group present in nine countries including Côte d'Ivoire is a financial player committed to the financial inclusion of producers in rural areas. Our institution works for access to quality financial services, adapted and accessible to all these populations living in rural areas.

 

Our innovative project, Customer Corner, a digital application


In the framework of the Scale2Save programme, Advans Côte d'Ivoire has developed an application called Customer Corner, assisted by the Senegalese FinTech Obertys. This application is available from our banking agents, a field team dedicated to agricultural producers. Our agents travel to meet agricultural producers. The opening of savings accounts is done by the banking agent from his smartphone. It takes only a few minutes.

This application now allows producers in rural areas to open their savings accounts on the spot, without paying opening fees, and without having to go to our branches. Once the savings account is opened, the producer can carry out transactions with his phone (not necessarily an Android) via a USSD MTN code.

In addition, our field agents assist our producer clients in the management of their savings accounts by visiting them and taking into account all their concerns. The producers are met periodically either individually or within their cooperatives.

By digitalising our financial services, we are faster and more efficient while maintaining the proximity of a genuine customer relationship to better serve producers in rural areas. We believe in the digitalisation of the customer journey coupled with a personalised proximity approach to better raise awareness and give a human face to the offer of financial services.

As a result, small-holder farmers have access to savings accounts, and are supported in their financial education in order to strengthen their financial security in the short, medium and long term. In October 2021, 80,000 producers were registered in our books for more than 300 million FCFA (Franc of the French Community of Africa) saved, equivalent to about 455,000 euros.

 

The steps ahead


However, we are facing obstacles in this mission which are:

>Difficulties in identifying producers: many of these people do not have an identity card, some are foreigners and therefore cannot easily obtain a birth certificate without returning to their country of origin. Without ID, it is impossible to open a bank account or even a mobile money account associated with the account.

>The lack of an "e-kyc" procedure which prevents the provision of a 100% digital customer experience: electronic signatures, for example, are not authorised.

>The lack of interoperability between the payment systems of telecom operators implying the cost of developing individualised interfaces for the financial institution but also strong limits on use since it is not always possible to have several phones.

>The strong culture of "cash" in the rural world within all sectors and mistrust of financial institutions due to unfortunate past experiences.

 

With digital finance, we are pushing back the barriers of distance, income level, and social factors, however regulations and infrastructure must also evolve if we are to truly include rural populations financially.

 


Financial inclusion; Scale2Save; financial resilience; needs; Business case