Listening to Learn in Zambia

  • October 22, 2015

  • Lusaka, Zambia

Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a UNCDF programme that supports the expansion of digital financial services (DFS) in LDCs. Active since early 2015 in Zambia, MM4P has already initiated a number of activities with key DFS stakeholders to improve the offering of services to low income households.

UNCDF-MM4P launched the second part of its consumer insights research in Zambia recently, with InterMedia sitting down with Zambians to learn more about their experiences and perspectives on financial services.

InterMedia, a global research organization recognized for its expertise in financial inclusion, designed a comprehensive consumer discoveries research to inform financial product development, positioning, marketing and consumer targeting.

The research includes focus groups and in-depth interviews of consumers, and mystery-shops of mobile money agents. The focus groups and in-depth interviews provide insight into the minds and practices of consumers, from their own perspectives, while the mystery-shop* help us experience the mobile money interaction process as a consumer would experience it.

Conducted in Lusaka and the Copper Belt region, the research targets three important groups for building to greater financial inclusion:

  • New accountholders, who recently felt the impetus to open an account
  • Women, who often are kept from financial products
  • Unregistered or over-the-counter (OTC) users who make financial transactions without an account

The consumer discoveries components are designed to complement the national quantitative assessment of Zambians in the 2015 edition of FinScope, and to enable financial services stakeholders in country as they seek to bring products to potential customers, while deepening product usage among existing customers.

FinScope showed growth in the number of consumers who have financial accounts and are using formal financial services, but there’s less of a perceived need or ability to attain important financial services, and even insurance products.

These findings are fascinating and lead to more questions around the dynamics of Zambian consumers. We know that decisions around financial products are often tightly aligned with life circumstances, needs, perceived relevance and either personal or familial aspirations. We know that the degree to which someone finds trust and comfort in adapting a new behavior—particularly a financial behavior—can be both a barrier as well as a motivating force. And, we know that financial products contribute to greater financial stability only when the products are used.

Because of all this, we started the process talking with financial services stakeholders, learning from their experiences, absorbing their needs, and understanding how research can help them become a part of the movement toward greater financial inclusion.

With that context, we’re now spending time with consumers, learning about their life priorities and how they plan for life’s circumstances. We’re doing this so we get smarter on the dynamics that surround need for financial services, or impetus for opening an account. We’re asking consumers questions like:

  • What’s important for your family right now, and what makes those things important?
  • What are the big commitments in your life, and how do you prepare for them?
  • What are some of the things you have to plan for on a regular basis?
  • What do you do to manage income and expenses?

We’re also taking the time to ask consumers how they characterize the marketplace so we can learn what they think is available to them, what’s relevant and familiar. We want to understand trust and comfort, and are asking:

  • To describe marketplace options
  • Perceived marketplace leaders
  • Their perspectives on who uses which providers
  • What providers offer to consumers
  • Which providers are most appealing

FinScope effectively measures account ownership and usage, and we want to broaden that perspective, understanding how consumers use the accounts, when and how they characterize their value in their lives. To that end, we’re letting consumers reflect upon and share:

  • What drew them to the account originally
  • The barriers and challenges they had to getting the account
  • Motives and fears that keep them from getting an account
  • What using the account gives them that using cash does not
  • Where, in a perfect world, they would like to use the account

Finally, so that we generate consumer-led ideas or financial products, we are encouraging research participants to indulge in the “driver’s seat” for a few minutes, and share what they would do with financial products if they were in charge. Aspirational and projective exercises like this reveal so much about what a consumer wants to accomplish through financial services, and elements that can draw a consumer out of their comfort zone and into new financial behaviors.

Having commenced in late September, the research will conclude at the end of October.

Watch this space for what promises to be fascinating findings about consumer lifestyle dynamics that matter for financial inclusion, the journey toward product adoption, and factors for evolving product usage into greater financial stability.

About InterMedia

InterMedia is a global research consultancy that partners with mission-driven organizations seeking to make an impact in people’s lives around the world. We give clients the data and tools they need to help them understand, engage and positively impact the key groups and societies they care about. InterMedia offers a full range of research and analysis, consulting, and fieldwork management and training services to strengthen development initiatives, measure social investments and enhance consumer engagement. Our quantitative and qualitative research and mixed-method evaluations have engaged over 2 million respondents in more than 120 countries. For more information on InterMedia, visit

About MM4P

Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a programme launched by the UN Capital Development Fund in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. The programme provides support to branchless and mobile financial services in a select group of LDCs to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust branchless and mobile financial services ecosystem that reaches low income people in LDCs. For more information, visit

*Mystery shops are research exercises where a trained shopper assumes the role of a consumer and performs a series of tasks as a consumer, documenting the experience.