BFA in partnership with Mastercard Foundation designed the FIBR project to explore new ways to link low-income customers to financial services. FIBR (Financial Inclusion on Business Runways) works with partner businesses in Ghana and Tanzania to demonstrate how smartphones can accelerate and deepen financial inclusion by using small businesses in their local communities to create new touchpoints, and therefore linkages to financial services. FIBR’s ultimate aim is to export lesson learned from successful and different approaches to bridging low-income individuals to financial services so that other providers are better able to design and build solutions on top of the data and channels made possible by smartphones.
While only an estimated 17% of mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa have a smartphone today, the GSMA estimates that this will rise to 56% in five years—over the time of the project. This massive shift to smartphones enables much more user-friendly interfaces than were possible in the first generation of mobile money. Just as important, the shift also enables competitive, new entrants to provide services using data connections which they could not easily do in the first generation when mobile operators, in particular, could closely guard access to their customers. Although this sea change is already underway, there are currently no known successful models of financial inclusion in developing countries that are based on the use of smartphones. There is therefore a need to develop and test models that could become the “m-Pesa’s” of the smartphone era. This will ensure that their risks are understood, as well as the benefits promoted so as to accelerate appropriate adoption.
BFA’s core team is engaging with each partner to shape a business plan to build or extend on its existing approach to clients so as to result in additional financially inclusive products or services. At differing levels of intensity, the project team will then engage with the partner to design, develop and roll out the product using agile development approaches comprised of short product testing cycles focused on learning and ongoing innovation to find solutions that work.