Strengthening Cash-In/Cash-Out Networks in Ethiopia

  • April 26, 2023

  • Ethiopia

For more information contact:

Yaa Asamoah Boateng

Communication and knowledge Management Analyst, UNCDF Ethiopia


Strengthening Cash-In/Cash Out (CICO) networks and performance measurement in Ethiopia is a way to build up agent networks and improve access to financial services. The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, through a Cash-in/Cash Out project, aims to improve the reach and quality of CICO networks in Ethiopia. This will be done through ecosystem-wide CICO boot camps, technology solutions, and the development of a CICO measurement dashboard for industry players, including the regulatory body.

The project aims to empower different ecosystem stakeholders to generate meaningful insights and make evidence-based decisions to ensure the inclusion and participation of unserved and underserved constituents in the digital economy. It also aligns with the government's priority of achieving a 70% account ownership in 2025, per the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy II.

The project, which will run for two years, will focus on several activities. One activity is a CICO bootcamp that will train about 15 service providers, including mobile money providers and their agents, retail banks, microfinance institutions and smaller financial service providers in foundational and specialized digital money distribution aspects such as gender intentional design and technology provider selection.

The second activity, a Digital Distributor Incubator, will enable CICO managers and technology firms to test the viability of their ideas to determine valuable business outcomes. Selected service providers (CICO providers and technology firms) with the most viable solutions will be awarded US$50,000 and will work with financial service providers to bring their solutions to market. Through this activity, more sustainable solutions can scale faster, offering better services, lower costs in networks, and limit the amount of dormancy in the agent networks.

Additionally, the project will focus on supporting the central bank to expand the automated data collection on CICO and financial services access points as part of financial institutions' DFS (Digital Financial Services) data delivery. This aspect of the project will leverage a diagnostic data assessment that NBE conducted in collaboration with UNCDF. The diagnostic assessment covers a broad range of data beyond CICO networks feeding into developing an automated solution to enable financial service providers to report accurate and comprehensive data to the regulator effectively.

Ultimately, the data collection and analysis tool will enable the National Bank to monitor progress and gaps towards the objectives stated in the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy . These include conducting trend analysis on fundamental metrics such as the number of agents, distribution of financial service access points, customers, value and volume of transactions to guide the development of distribution networks or the larger emergence of digital finance and fintech solutions for mass market customers.

Committed to improving women's access and use of digital financial services to ensure their active participation in the digital economy, UNCDF's Digital Finance Country Lead, Endashaw Tesfaye, states:

“For all activities across this project, we will ensure adequate representation of female participants. We will also highlight the case for sex-disaggregated data to NBE and regulated entities and identify opportunities to disaggregate some data points by gender.”

Through this project, UNCDF aims to further deepen its efforts in the ecosystem, having already partnered with private and public stakeholders to develop agent management technologies in Ethiopia and improve digital payment services for humanitarian contexts. Improving CICO networks in Ethiopia and enhancing data collection and analysis for the Central Bank to impact the expansion, viability, and quality of distribution networks will ensure that underserved populations such as women, youth and rural dwellers in Ethiopia can also access and benefit from the digital economy.