Financial inclusion implies that individuals and business have access to a broad range of affordable financial services that meet their needs and are delivered in a responsible and sustainable manner.
The Sustainable Development Goals highlight the importance of financial inclusion to women’s empowerment and broader development outcomes. Access to savings and credit is one of the most important means for women to achieve greater control of their lives and increase their own—and their family’s—opportunities, income and well being.
Over the past years, financial inclusion has been greatly stimulated by mobile technology, digital payments and agent and mobile banking. It therefore becomes increasingly difficult for financial institutions to ignore alternative technology and distribution channels. But for many of them, knowing when and how to take the step is not easy. In efforts to support financial services for low-income people, especially women and rural people, the UNCDF MicroLead program, with funding from the MasterCard Foundation, is committed to supporting financial institutions transition to digital finance.
MicroLead co-organised a strategic workshop on "Business models for financial service providers engaging in digital finance" in partnership with Consortium Alafia, the national Microfinance Practitioners Association in Benin. The four-day workshop was instrumental in equipping 20 top managers from leading microfinance institutions in Benin in digital finance concepts and pathways. The participants could grasp the advantages linked to digital finance as well as the strategic options available to MFIs and drafted the most effective business model to suit their institutional objectives.
Louis Biaou, the director of the government body in charge of MFI regulation stated this workshop was timely and instrumental to the necessary digital leap of Benin’s microfinance organisations. Ignace Dovi, the Director of Consoritum Alafia, affirmed the commitment of the national microfinance association to support the MFIs’ digital journey and encouraged digital innovations to foster adoption and better service to “bottom of the pyramid” clients. M. Pascal Wele, the Director of Microfinance Promotion at the Ministry of Microfinance, was enthusiastic of the outcome of the workshop as being a first of its kind for the microfinance industry and in line with the government drive to encourage the digitisation of the economy at the bottom of the pyramid with the contribution of microfinance institutions. A foundational presentation was done by the Central Bank to clarify the conditions and opportunities in the current regulatory framework for MFIs to engage in digital finance.
Picture and videos of the events are available at the following link: https://youtu.be/hsF16AknUnk
MicroLead is a UNCDF-managed global initiative challenging regulated FSPs to develop and roll-out deposit services which respond to the rural vacuum of services. With the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation and the LIFT Fund in Myanmar, MicroLead works with a variety of FSPs and technical service providers to reach rural markets, particularly women, with demand-driven, responsibly priced products offered via alternative delivery channels such as rural agents, mobile phones, roving agents, point of sales devices and group linkages. This is combined with financial education, so customers not only have access but can effectively use quality services.
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