In September 2011, UNCDF, in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation (MCF) launched a six- year expansion of the MicroLead programme that aimed to increase access to savings driven microfinance to a minimum 450,000 low income individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), half of whom are women and half of whom reside in rural areas. The programme’s intention was to attract experienced institutions or networks from developed and developing countries to increase the capacity of financial institutions providing low balance savings either through the provision of technical assistance to financial service providers (FSPs) or through the establishment of greenfield institutions. MLE also has a strong focus on harnessing the potential of technology driven alternate delivery channels (ADCs) and financial education in broadening outreach to financial services.
Under the MLE programme, grants were awarded to 11 projects in 10 SSA countries. The projects selected were diverse and included downscaling of banks and the establishment of greenfield institutions, financial cooperative creation and strengthening, savings group linkages to formal financial institutions, MFI transformation into deposit-taking institutions, human-centered product design, and deployment of ADCs such as mobile money, rural agents, susu collectors and point of sale devices.
As articulated in Chapter 1, the mid-term evaluation of the MicroLead Expansion (MLE) programme was conducted as agreed in the project document and in accordance with UNCDF’s Evaluation Plan (2014-2015) and its broader Evaluation Policy. The purpose of this mid-term evaluation was to i) allow UNCDF and MCF to meet their accountability objectives, and ii) ensure that the evaluation can support the ongoing attempts by the programme and its funders to capture good practices and lessons to date in a sector which is still relatively new and focusing on innovation. The evaluation objective is to assess both the results to date, as well as the likelihood of the programme meeting its end goals on the basis of the current design, human resource structure and broad implementation strategy.
In line with UNCDF’s emphasis on designing evaluations with strong methodological rigour, the evaluation team built its approach around the UNCDF Evaluation Unit’s standardized SPIRE framework that puts together a theory of change based set of common evaluation questions for each of its practice areas. The framework draws from the internationally used OECD/DAC criteria2: relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability. In order to provide a compelling fact-based analysis, a data collection toolkit complete with stakeholder mapping, interview checklists, and questionnaires for individual interviews as well as templates and guidelines for focus group discussions was developed.
The evaluation was undertaken by a team of six consultants from Micro-Credit Ratings International Limited. As part of the evaluation, onsite missions were conducted in Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Benin and Cameroon while offline discussions were organized in Burundi, Liberia and Burkina Faso. Prior to each mission, the evaluation team sent out standardized templates to the TSPs and FSPs. The evaluation team interacted with representatives from the TSPs and FSPs, regulators, ministries and industry associations as well as UNCDF, UNDP and other leading donor agencies operating in each of the project locations. With the help of local enumerators, the team also conducted individual interviews and focus group discussions with the FSPs’ clients, in all the countries where onsite visits were organized. The details of M-CRIL’s approach to the evaluation and tools developed are described in Chapter 3, while the programme profile and achievements to date are summarized in Chapter 2 of the main evaluation report.