Webinar: Overcoming Market Constraints to Deliver Sustainable Financial Inclusion to Rural Communities.
The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity recently hosted a webinar looking at the state and progress of the business environment in which for-profit companies delivering financial products and services to rural communities operate.
This conversation was in line with the overall theme of the Financial Inclusion Week 2019, which essentially asked whether with all the efforts being made to deliver and drive usage of financial products and services was proving transformative and sustainable.
Elizabeth Mastors, Chief of Staff to the CEO, Apollo Agriculture presented Apollo’s innovative approach to reaching and serving rural farmers. While this is expensive, Elizabeth explained how automation and increased leveraging on technology is making this more cost-effective. She further highlighted the key enablers that have permitted companies like Apollo Agriculture to grow. These include use of mobile technology, satellite data, machine learning and automated operations. Apollo Agriculture is a Fund participant, having received support from the Fund for Rural Prosperity for its work around input financing and learning.
George Muga, Head of Market Infrastructure, FSD Uganda followed on from Elizabeth, and spoke to the interplay of several factors in delivering sustainable financial services and products – price, regulation, technology, access and awareness. He explained the complexities surrounding these factors, especially in the context of serving rural communities already disadvantaged due to inadequate infrastructure. He went on to discuss what the sector as a whole needed to unlock the varied constraints. He emphasized the need for more collaboration among financial sector players, improved technology penetration, and the need to focus on developing youth and women targeted solutions.
The final speaker in the webinar was Renita Nabisubi, Head of Digital Financial Solutions at Access to Finance Rwanda. Renita’s task was to answer the question ‘Are we having the desired impact?’. Basing her discussion in the East African context, she pointed out that growth in ‘accounts opened’ has not necessarily translated into poverty reduction. She noted that implementation costs remain high while activity rates by rural populations are still low. This situation makes profitability and sustainability difficult to attain for businesses offering these critical financial products and services. Renita went on to explain that focus must shift towards delivering required support services and enabling regulation to improve market efficiencies, if sustainability is to be achieved.
An engaging question and answer session followed. The Fund will be posting the responses to the questions posed to our speakers here as soon as possible. The success of the webinar will result in a potential series organised by the Fund to encourage further conversations and disseminate learnings gathered from the portfolio of 38 innovative companies working across 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as wider sector experts and partners.