The third session in the Participant Learning and Sharing Series titled The Disrupted Path to Prosperity: Financial Inclusion and Resilience was held on 20 May 2021. This followed on from the first session on Exploring Business Models, and second on Building Successful Partnerships.
This session recording is available here. Barbara Wiafe, the West Africa Portfolio Manager on the Fund moderated the session.
Ashini Patel, Program Co-ordinator at the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity opened the session with an overview of the Fund. A key highlight was that up to the end of 2020 (which factored some of the pandemic period) 4.7 million people in 15 Sub-Saharan African countries had better access to financial products and services through the Fund intervention. Ashini however noted that insights are needed to see whether this has set rural farmers and communities along a path to prosperity as originally intended, or whether it has at least placed them in a situation to withstand major shocks. She pointed out that many of the 38 projects supported by the Fund have faced some form of disruption in the last two years prompting changes to business models and operations. This shaped thinking around the Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience window by the Fund, which has since supported 12 participants to keep their overall risk on the Fund projects manageable. Ashini also noted, that despite the challenges, several projects in the Fund have also used the opportunity to innovate to their advantage, and to that of their rural beneficiaries.
The panellists in the session discussing resilience consisted of Djedje Kungula (Head of Agribusiness & Strategic Partnerships), Equity BCDC in the DRC, and representatives from APA Insurance Kenya including Ashok Shah (Group Chief Executive Officer), Siani Malama (Head of Inclusive Insurance), and Charles Wambua (APA/Fund Micro-Sure Program Consultant).
Djedje explained the DRC context, where political disruptions and insecurity in some areas of the country overlaid the pandemic situation, affecting its agency banking rollouts, onboarding of new customers and planned classroom-style trainings on financial literacy. Apart from the Fund- supported project, beneficiaries themselves were affected, with some having to renegotiate loan repayments, for example. Digitisation supported the project’s continuity, as did the wider agency banking infrastructure now made possible following Equity Bank’s buyout of BCDC.
Providing APA‘s perspective from Kenya, Siani noted the effects of the pandemic, drought, excessive rainfall and locust invasions on its beneficiaries (small scale farmers in East Africa), which heightened APA’s resolve to provide a safety net, particularly through its index-based insurance product. While adjustments had to be made to the business, Charles highlighted the positive side to the shocks faced; by working with partners who were already on the ground and accelerating its mobile/digital literacy solutions to engage its farmer clients, APA was able to manage disruptions and deliver solutions despite the challenges, and in some aspects even extend this to remote parts of the country. While digital traction for engagement was also relevant to APA and growing, APA’s experience is that the human touch still remains integral to developing trust, particularly for this segment of audience.
In terms of continuing the transformational journey in financial inclusion beyond the Fund, it was noted that in DRC, the Equity BCDC Fund-supported project now aligns with the larger social impact focus of the Equity Group, and with the increased infrastructural and other support resulting, agency banking is being enabled to rollout at a faster pace in DRC. APA Insurance noted that Fund support to date has importantly helped the organisation to develop know-how on delivery of relevant and affordable products, organisational capacities and partnerships to focus on micro-insurance. This consequently means that beyond the Fund’s support, the organisation is deploying a long-term strategy to extend further safety nets to rural customers with other partners in housing, health and other areas.
The session was well attended by a cross section of participants and external influencers interested to on board lessons from the Fund around building more resilience into programmes and businesses working in financial inclusion.
The Learning Series Session 3 webinar recording is available here.
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