US$17.6m Banking Initiative For Rural Ghanaians

The MasterCard Foundation has launched a six-year $17.6 million initiative in partnership with Oxford Policy Management to increase the range of financial services available to poor, rural populations in Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia.

The “Savings at the Frontier” project will employ a unique approach to connect 250,000 people to the formal banking system by designing new financial products tailored for informal savings groups, which, according to the 2015 Global Findex, are used by approximately nine million adults in the three target countries.

“Today, those nine million people who are excluded from the formal banking system are finding value in the informal services offered by savings groups or clubs,” said Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion & Youth Livelihoods at The MasterCard Foundation.

“The Global Findex noted that making the connection between these informal savings groups and the formal banking system is one of the three most promising opportunities for financial inclusion and could bring an additional 70 million people in Africa into the formal financial system. We want to help forge this connection with “Savings at the Frontier”.

Informal savings groups have existed for centuries in many parts of the world, often due to the very low incomes of rural poor people, the distance required to travel to bank branches or a lack of trust or familiarity with banks.

These groups, which typically comprise 10 to 30 members, often exclusively women, pool small savings at regular meetings.

The money collected is used to issue loans to group members who then repay the loans with interest rates determined by the group. Savings groups help their members with loans when unexpected events such as illness, crop failures or farm expansion opportunities occur.

“It’s time to explore how we can combine the value of both informal and formal services for low-income individuals in order to optimise their choices and help them reach their socio-economic goals,” said Machal Karim, Project Manager and financial sector development consultant at Oxford Policy Management.

“We believe this is an opportunity for a bold, new approach to financial inclusion.”

Oxford Policy Management will commission special research to develop scalable and sustainable business models. This information will be shared with the global development community and the financial services industry in order to foster more financial inclusion worldwide.

Source: MasterCard Foundation

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