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Review shows way to increase financial access

Genesis partnered a prominent private foundation in the financial inclusion community to identify what it had learnt in expanding access to formal financial services across the continent.

In 2013, FINCA was awarded a more than four-year grant called Scaling Up Financial Inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa (SFISSA). It was to expand its footprint and product offerings to low-income individuals in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia through:
• Developing and rolling out new agent and mobile banking channels to serve rural and hard-to-reach communities;
• Training FINCA’s middle management and frontline staff to support the roll out of FINCA’s new delivery channels and products;
• Supporting the development, integration and analysis of social performance metrics into every aspect of FINCA’s operations.

The grant assisted FINCA during its major institutional transformation. FINCA was in the process of transitioning to a deposit-taking microfinance institution. It had previously never implemented mobile and agent banking and had to learn how to become more commercially driven (as opposed to meeting its historical social mandate).

We were contracted to conduct a mid-term evaluation of SFISSA to establish whether the project was aligned to the grant objectives and would deliver on its outcomes, and to offer recommendations to improve implementation.

The evaluation used multiple research methods across the countries to triangulate findings. Data was collected from FINCA staff (FINCA documents, interviews with senior staff and appreciative inquiry with FINCA frontline staff), FINCA clients (focus group discussions with FINCA clients and interviews with non-clients and dropout clients) and FINCA partners (interviews with FINCA agents). By considering the programme through different perspectives, the evaluation captured key lessons in the implementation of alternative delivery channels, staff capacity building and social performance management at various levels.

The evaluation found that the three above-mentioned components fitted well with FINCA’s vision. Going forward, key considerations were:
• Improving FINCA’s ability to sustain the investment in alternative channels through pricing and client uptake;
• Sustaining the training and staff capacity efforts once grant funding ended;
• Aligning the spend on research to business needs.

The lessons informed practical recommendations which have been used by FINCA to formulate its Year 4 plan, which is guiding the remainder of the grant.

Specifically, the evaluation considered FINCA’s institutional constraints to help it assess how far it had progressed and to make better decisions in future. For example, the team recommended that FINCA should focus less on its mobile offering, because people were mostly using it to repay loans, and that agents needed a better value proposition from FINCA to ensure sufficient buy-in.

To further enhance use of the evaluation recommendations, country-level reports were developed, which focused on improving implementation at the branch level.

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