Judith Laokwali, fashion designer form, Kano State, Nigeria

Investing in innovative research to enhance financial inclusion and increase economic empowerment

Like many women across Africa, Judith Laokwali, who lives in northern Nigeria’s Kano State, runs her own small tailoring business for customers in her community. However, the banking services in her remote location are limited, which creates occasional challenges with customer payments. In addition, the social and cultural norms of her community limit her income opportunities.

Research suggests eliminating the barriers to digital solutions could boost the economic participation of millions of financially excluded women, youth, rural dwellers and small-business owners.

In response, the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI)(link is external) is investing in innovative research approaches such as human-centred design to better understand these barriers to access as well as how consumers might use digital financial solutions.

ADFI’s approach places participants at the centre of the process, enabling them to be co-creators of responsive, inclusive products and services that are relevant to them. Designed to create appropriate, affordable and accessible solutions, ADFI provides powerful tools to build resilience, mitigate risk and achieve potential, particularly for marginalised populations.

Yello Digital Financial Services Ltd, a fintech subsidiary of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, developed gender-focussed mobile money (MoMo) agent networks that train women entrepreneurs like Judith Laokwali on digital financial solutions to overcome the barriers, including cultural and social norms, hampering their economic activity. Becoming a MoMo agent, she said, “will help me boost myself with my customers. If they say they want to pay with money, I will have ways for them to withdraw … and not for them to tell me that the transfer is not working, and they should go to another place.”

Human-centred design research informed the development of M-KOPA’s  digital credit solutions offering flexible and tailored loan repayment options(link is external) and the opportunity to access digital credit using pay-as-you-go smartphone services and other data as collateral. Piloted in Kenya, M-KOPA involved women in determining what influenced their uptake and use of mobile services and digital financial services and increased women’s participation in a PAYG financial inclusion pathway.  The same approach relying on users to define and design a viable mobile app also influenced Pula Advisors’ development of a responsive digital microinsurance solution for women smallholder farmers in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia(link is external) for which  over 1.49 million farmers — including 700,000 women – registered.

For more information on the ADFI-supported human-centred design projects, please visit ADFI projects

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