Techno-Links - Financial Services - Zambia and Nicaragua

There are 2.5 billion people worldwide that still do not have access to basic financial services, many who live in rural areas where it is simply not cost effective to build a bank branch. These people have to travel for hours and spend money on transportation to receive a loan or deposit money. Now, for the first time, we have new tools to use branchless banking to bridge this last-mile gap, including mobile money, debit cards and retail agents.

To push forward these innovative financial delivery channels, MEDA supported two local private sector partners. In Zambia, MEDA partnered with Zoona, a company that offers electronic money transfers, payment services, and voucher programs through mobile phones and an agent network. In Nicaragua, MEDA partnered with MiCrédito, a local microfinance institution with six branches with a business strategy of expansion through technology channels.

MEDA worked with Zoona to recruit, train and manage 150 quality agents and to establish new cross-sector partnerships to expand outreach and product offerings. The young start-up, Zoona, has since secured a $4 million investment from Accion Frontier Investments, Omiydar, and from MEDA through our Sarona Risk Capital Fund. Technical assistance focused on continued agent expansion, business intelligence, and user-centric product development.

In Nicaragua, we worked with MiCrédito to implement mobile credit checks, reducing average loan approval time from four days to one day. In the second year of the project, we worked together with MiCrédito to pilot a partnership with a commercial bank, BAC, to bring savings accounts and electronic disbursement of loans each of the MFI's nearly 4,000 clients. We have also implemented a new MIS and dashboard reporting system to facilitate collect and analysis of business intelligence and product performance.

 Project Quick Facts

Goal: To improve and expand access to inclusive financial services for rural consumers in Zambia and Nicaragua by supporting local private sector partners to leverage alternative delivery channels including mobile money, debit cards, and retail agents.

Reaching: 200,000

Funding: Global Affairs Canada (GAC), MEDA members

Project length: March 2011 – March 2014