Financial Inclusion hinges on our understanding the client

In places like Africa, mobile money has been seen as the savior of the unbanked but the recent frustrating experiences of the same product in places like South Africa are proof that a one size fits all approach cannot work. It is proof that clients are different and need to be better understood for financial inclusion to flourish. Understand who the client is, how the client behaves and why the client behaves in a particular way is therefore very crucial.


This was the premise that informed the two-day Symposium on Financial Inclusion that took place in Kigali Rwanda hosted by The MasterCard Foundation. The event brought together more than 300 experts on financial inclusion from over 30 countries to share experiences and lessons on how best to drive financial inclusion so as to cover the remaining population that is yet to access these services.

The role of financial inclusion in driving development and transforming livelihoods cannot be over emphasized. Insights on how those still left out can be given a hand to jump on board the financial inclusion vessel were shared extensively during the symposium. The room was indeed a boiling pot of brains from the academia, media, fintech, international development, government, banking and other related sectors. This was best seen during the coffee break where at every turn you would encounter a chat that cooled the coffee/tea as everyone got lost in picking another’s brain before another session could begin.


Each session left participants with so much to mentally nibble on as they sipped their coffee during the break. /Photo Allan  Brian Ssenyonga

The ball was set rolling with a brain-stimulating address by Professor Eldar Shafir from Princeton University on how behavioural science can inform our understanding of the needs of poor clients or any client for that matter. How and why we arrive at the decisions we arrive at as well as our general behaviour is what Professor Shafir got everyone pondering about. With the year’s theme pegged to client centricity, behavioural psychology and partnerships the room was sucked into the mood for amazing deliberations from then on.

A live debate hosted by Nozipho Mbanjwa of CNBC Africa Television followed with the topic being “Deploying data to understand clients better.” The panelists who included Herman Smit of Cenfri, Rose Goslinga of Pula Advisors and Paul Kweheria of KCB Bank shared nuggets of wisdom on the ever evolving journey of financial inclusion. The panelists had great insight into the process of data mining and how it feeds into improved service delivery.

An all female panel later tackled the touchy issue of Client Protection. It was agreed that consumers need to fully understand their rights and obligations when dealing with financial services. The panelists derided those who try to hide this information from clients by hiding in verbose paragraphs or font sizes that put off the client in order to lure them into a den of ignorance soon after appending a signature to the dotted line.


Financial inclusion is a waste of time if women are not part of the discussion. /Photo Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Nick Hughes of M-Kopa Solar had the audience hooked as he delved into the story of client centricity and the power of digital services drawing from his rich experience with the renowned M-Pesa and now M-Kopa Solar. The story of M-Pesa is regarded highly as far as innovation for financial inclusion is concerned. Its revolutionary impact on how we now perceive financial services and mobile phone handsets cannot be over emphasized.

The MasterCard Foundation also used the opportunity to award its second annual Clients at the Centre Prize to Hello Paisa for their innovative service that facilitates international money transfers for foreign works in South Africa. The US$150,000 prize seeks to reward the most customer-focused organizations working to ensure that poor people can access formal financial services and products. The winner of the prize was chosen by the audience who voted on the three presentations that also included Artoo IT Solutions and 4G Capital.


The face of a winner. Ahmed Cassim, MD of Hello Group Financial Services. /Photo Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Day one ended when people were still craving for more deliberations because the discussion on financial inclusion continues long after the symposium. We all have a challenge upon us. Two billion people remain shut out of formal accounts at banks and other financial services providers while half of those with accounts do not use them regularly.

We all mustn’t forget the words of Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, “Financial inclusion is essential to improving the livelihoods of people living in underserved communities, and for advancing a country’s overall economic growth and prosperity.”


About The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by MasterCard when the Foundation was created in 2006.


About Allan Ssenyonga

I am a Ugandan freelance writer/journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda. I have an insatiable desire for understanding and trying to explain media, political, cultural and social dynamics.
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