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Financial Inclusion

MAP Swaziland: Stakeholder Workshop (April 2014)

Cenfri on behalf of FinMark Trust recently presented the key findings and recommendations from Making Access to Financial Services Possible (MAP) Swaziland diagnostic report at the Stakeholder Workshop in Ezulwini, Swaziland on April 2, 2014. The workshop provided an opportunity for the MAP diagnostic team to test key findings with stakeholders and for stakeholders to provide feedback and comment on the findings which will be incorporated in the final diagnostic report.


Please click here to download the stakeholder workshop presentation (PDF, 1.86MB)


The stakeholder workshop was hosted by the MFU (Microfinance Unit) and attended by representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Swaziland, the FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority) and the SRA (Swaziland Revenue Authority) as well as a range of private sector representatives from the banks, credit providers, retailers, insurers and donor organisations. The workshop highlighted five primary priorities through which access to financial services can be improved in Swaziland.


1. Mobile money to transact and save. The pervasiveness of cash-based transactions and savings in the Swazi economy indicates the challenge pre-existing payment mechanisms have with reaching the majority of Swazi adults. MTN Mobile money presents an opportunity to facilitate low cost transactions and improve distribution for most adults in Swaziland. Since its introduction midway through 2011, the usage of MTN mobile money in Swaziland has grown steadily and now accounts for an estimated 38% of transactions. However, the relatively small number of active users (30,000 - equivalent to approximately 5.5% of the adult population) indicates that there are still some challenges related to mobile money. A combination of innovative product design (such as introducing super agents to aid rural agents' cash management) and regulatory flexibility (such as allowing mobile money accounts to exceed the current E4,000 cap and allowing MTN to earn interest on the float) could help to overcome these.


2. Supporting dependents. According to FinScope (2011), 42.5% of Swazi adults receive income from friends or family (either within or outside their household) and this constitutes the main source of income for 68% (about 150,000) of these adults. A large portion of Swazis are therefore reliant on money sent through remittance channels both from within Swaziland as well as across the border. The World Bank estimates that 160,000 Swazis are emigrants (85% of which reside in South Africa) which equates to about 13% of the population living outside of Swaziland. These emigrants are an important source of income for many Swazi residents as they remit money back to dependents regularly. It is therefore vitally important to make both formal domestic and formal cross-border remittance channels as cheap and accessible as possible. Given the high cost of remittances through existing providers (particularly for cross border transfers), there is clear potential for alternative providers such as retailers or mobile money to play a larger role in money transfers. Specific financial services products targeted at expats and domestic remittance senders, such as specific education savings or health insurance for their dependents, could also encourage remittance flows and direct investment into the Swaziland economy.


3. Managing the impact of risk. Swaziland suffers from a very high mortality rate (57% of FinScope respondents had suffered a death in the household in the last 12 months) and high rates of illness (37% of FinScope respondents had experienced a costly illness in the household in the last 12 months). Insufficient savings and the fact that community risk-pooling groups are not widespread in Swaziland mean that many Swazis are forced to borrow from informal moneylenders at interest rates of 20-30% per month towards the costs of insurable risks events. A modelling exercise shows that formal funeral insurance products offer substantially better value than informal credit to policy holders. Yet, take-up of insurance remains low outside of the formally employed market. There is therefore an imperative to extend the reach of insurance, especially life cover towards funeral expenses and education fees, as well as some kind of insurance to cover costs related to a health event for those who cannot necessarily afford comprehensive medical aid.


4. Deepening bank reach. Banks already serve a large portion of the Swazi population (44% of adults have a bank account) across all segments of the population. However, evidence suggests that a high proportion of these bank accounts are either dormant or used only as a 'mailbox', with account holders withdrawing their entire salary monthly. This suggests that many bank account holders find limited value in their bank accounts but also, given the high costs of administering such accounts, presents an opportunity for banks to incentivise increased use of bank accounts by reducing costs and increasing balances (for example by offering a low value, short term funeral insurance policy to accountholders that exceed a specified balance throughout a month or sending reminders via SMS). This would provide greater value to account holders while at the same time allowing banks to reduce the number of unprofitable bank accounts.


5. Getting credit basics right. Only 7% of Swazis use formal credit whereas 17% of Swazis access only informal credit at significantly higher rates of interest. Opportunities should therefore be explored to formalise credit provision including improved disclosure of costs to clients and introduction of credit bureau. An analysis of current SMMEs in Swaziland indicates that less than 10,000 (constituting about 13% of the total number of SMMEs) earn more than E2,000 a month and can realistically be termed aspirational, with the most likely potential to leverage credit for growth. Supply side information suggests that there are already sufficient vehicles to provide subsidised business credit to this market and that the availability of credit may not be the primary business constraint faced by SMMEs. Rather, the focus should be on creating an ecosystem conducive to SMMEs which includes appropriate savings vehicles (used to finance a far larger proportion of businesses), the ability to transact efficiently, a favourable business environment, infrastructure, investment in education and health, training and timeous payment of invoices by large clients such as in the public sector. The primary focus in terms of financial inclusion may therefore be to improve access to appropriate savings and transaction products rather than credit. Consumer protection in credit should be a key focus area to improve formal disclosure and reduce abuse by informal lenders (such as taking clients' bank cards and ATM pins)

MAP Myanmar: Fourth Steering Committee Meeting hosted by the Myanmar Microfinance Supervisory Entity (MMSE)

Cenfri recently presented key findings and recommendations from Making Access to Financial Services Possible (MAP) Myanmar diagnostic report at the fourth MAP Steering Committee Meeting from 21st -22nd of January 2014 hosted by the Myanmar Microfinance Supervisory Entity (MMSE).


The diagnostic report forms part of a series of documents produced as part of the MAP Myanmar initiative. The report applies the MAP diagnostic and programming framework to support expanding access to financial services for individuals as well as micro and small enterprises. The application of MAP in this report considers the opportunities, challenges and scope for the development of inclusive financial markets in Myanmar.


Preparation for MAP Myanmar was approved by the President of the Union of Myanmar in January 2013. The programme has been developed in close cooperation with the UNDP office in Myanmar and is embedded in the UNDP Country Programme and Action Plan, which has recently been approved by the Government of Myanmar. MAP Myanmar is funded by the UNCDF and LIFT. The project is governed by a Steering Committee, consisting of ten members.


MAP is a partnership between Cenfri, UNCDF and FinMark Trust. Learn more about MAP and where it is being conducted at

Finance Forward Volume 3 Issue 2

To formulate informed strategies, individuals and institutions aim to understand the recent trends, driving forces and issues within the context of their work. However, in the current globalised world with its intrinsic interconnectivity and complex systems we suffer from the dilemma of an increasing amount of information available and a diminishing amount of time available to absorb it.  Enter Finance Forward, which approaches the field of inclusive financial services in Africa and synthesises disparate ideas and information from business, economic, social, technological, political, and physical environments, which are constantly at work behind the scenes, co-producing global change.


In this fourth edition of Finance Forward we take a step back and scan the larger, interlocking environments from which trends and issues emerge through a large number and wide variety of articles (academic and popular) that were published during the second, third and fourth quarter of 2012. The selection has included articles with an outlook toward the future or articles that carry implications for how the future will develop. They have been shortened to less than 50 percent of their original length and in most cases have been directly quoted (with the exception of a few longer articles). This edition presents four themes, which build upon those themes found in the first, second and third editions. 


Please click here to download Volume 3: Issue 2 of Finance Forward (PDF, 8.5MB) 

Mapping the Retail Payment Services Landscape in Zimbabwe

There remains a large percentage of Zimbabweans who are “previously banked” (estimated to be at least 12% of the population)


A recent study Mapping the Retail Payment Services Landscape in Zimbabwe managed by Cenfri commissioned by FinMark Trust and conducted by Bankable Frontier Associates finds:


  • The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has taken a “test and learn” approach to new innovations and currently assess applications for new product innovations on a case-by-case basis
  • There is no regulatory framework for electronic money or stored value or specific rules on the development and management of agent networks for mobile banking
  • Electronic infrastructure is still relatively limited with inconsistent power and mobile coverage in many rural areas
  • The National Payment System (NPS) Act does not sufficiently address the growing trend towards complex retail payment mechanisms over electronic channels is currently considering developing an e-payment act to cover issues such as e-signatures and other
  • Customers highlight sensitivity to cost rather than knowledge as a barrier
  • Both people who use banks and those who have never had an account reported that bank charges have increased and are prohibitively high

Click here to download the full report (PDF, 1.48MB)


Mapping the Retail Payment Services Landscape in Mozambique

41.14% of the adult population Mozambique has either never heard of a bank (22.5%) or does not know what it is (18.9%)


A recent study Mapping the Retail Payment Services Landscape in Mozambique managed by Cenfri commissioned by FinMark Trust and conducted by Bankable Frontier Associates finds:

  • Lack of availability and access prohibiting customers from using financial and payment services
  • Poor infrastructure to support  cash distribution networks
  • Unreliable electricity services and wireless communications
  • Limited interoperability amongst banks and also between mobile network operators
  • Unfamiliarity with electronic or innovative payments among the poor
  • Lack of second-level rules or clarity of the regulators’ positioning with regard to some innovation payment services
  • Limited options for remittances in general and excessive document for international remittances
  • The payment channels currently in use, mostly cash, are available and accessible, but remittance payments for example, are very expensive, with 20% of the money sent charged for transport

Click here to download the full report (PDF, 3.18MB) 


Mapping the Retail Payment Services Landscape in Malawi

In Malawi, 81% of people do not have access to formal payment services or mobile phones.


A recent study Mapping the Retail Payment Services Landscape in Malawi managed by Cenfri commissioned by FinMark Trust and conducted by Bankable Frontier Associates finds: 


  • Few financial institutions (public or private) actively pursue the unbanked market through technology and new distribution channels
  • New interest in the unbanked market results from Airtel’s mobile money aspirations
  • Two critical obstacles to increase access and usage of formal payment services: (i) improving infrastructure to support cash distribution network (ii) providing greater interoperability amongst providers
  • There is high demand for more proximate financial service, but banks and money transfer services are far away  
  • There is an astonishing number of complex and innovate transfer systems that rely on social networks
  • Trust in financial institutions is there but consumers feel the banks are inconvenient, overcrowded, expensive and therefore out of reach for poorer Malawians

Click here to download the full report (PDF, 2.50MB) 

Finance Forward Volume 3 (2012)

History teaches us that many times breakthroughs in science, art, business and technology originate not in finding exactly what we’re looking for, but through serendipity – that combination of accidents and sagacity that leads us to discover new ideas in places we were not looking – or perhaps where we were looking for something else.


The Finance Forward series has embraced this concept by not focusing specifically on the topic of financial inclusion, but taking a step back to scan the larger, interlocking environments from which an understanding of recent trends, driving forces and relevant issues can be shared. By doing this, the reader is afforded the opportunity to interpret the contents based on the context of his or her own institution’s projects and aims, ultimately enabling him or her to drive appropriate institutional strategies.


Click here to download volume 3 of Finance Forward

Standards Setting Bodies (SSBs) and Financial Inclusion (2011)

The Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) commissioned a study to investigate the challenges and opportunities to financial inclusion faced by five different developing countries in applying international standards as set by five main Standards setting bodies (SSBs). The countries covered in the study were Brazil, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and South Africa while the SSBs considered include the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision (BCBS), the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Committee on Payments and Settlement Systems (CPSS), the International Association for Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) and the International Association for Deposit Insurance (IADI). The Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), on behalf of the GPFI, contracted Cenfri to produce three of the five case studies (South Africa, Kenya and Brazil). In addition, Cenfri was responsible for the drafting of a document that draws together the impacts of the SSBs and their standards in the five countries, as well as how regulators in the five countries are choosing to respond to the SSBs and their standards in order to create room for financial inclusion.


Below we provide links to the above documents on the GPFI website:  

Conservative compliance behaviour (2011)

Cenfri managed a FinMark Trust funded study to investigate the reasons for the apparent lack of universal response by financial insitutions to the flexibility allowed by South Africa's anti-money laundering (AML) and combating of terrorist financing (CFT) regulatory requirements in relation to low-risk clients.


Financial Inclusion in Mozambique (2010)

Finmark Trust participated in an exposure visit conducted by Cenfri to Maputo, Mozambique from the 15th to the 17th of September 2010. The visit was part of the Finmark Trust’s mandate of promoting financial inclusion and regional financial integration within the SADC region.

The Finance Forward series (2010 & 2011)


We are happy  to present the second edition of Finance Forward, an environmental scanning document which looks at forces shaping inclusive financial services in Africa (and beyond).

The benefit of periodically scanning the business, economic, social, technological, physical, and political environments in the background of the “system” of financial inclusion is that we can continue to monitor and understand the implications of further developments in these trends and act upon our learning. We scanned a large number and variety of articles (academic and popular) that were published during the fourth quarter of 2010 and first quarter of 2011 to produce this issue of Finance Forward. In these edition we present six themes which are built upon those found in the first edition.