Through one of its digital finance programmes, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has worked to improve the financial lives of vulnerable populations in Uganda since 2014. Seeing a population that was 75 percent rural and an agricultural sector that employed over 75 percent of Ugandans, UNCDF recognized the need for, and potential of, digitizing payments to rural Ugandans working in the agricultural sector. The programme broadly aimed at supporting the overall economic development of the country and contributing to many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and specifically attempted to breach a long-standing frontier of financial services: rural areas.
The resulting research and digitization projects were multipronged. UNCDF strove to overcome a wide range of obstacles that historically limited the reach of financial services in rural areas—from the most obvious (the lack of infrastructure) to the more complex (the need to systematically balance the growth of supply and demand, since building infrastructure too quickly could result in provider losses while doing so too slowly could result in poor customer experience and decreased demand). To do so, UNCDF co-created an approach with market stakeholders that were active and/or willing to reach the last mile. UNCDF then rolled out and tested a ‘booster team’ approach in five agricultural value chains in Uganda.