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Executing Human Centered Design Research to Test the Applicability of Smartphone-Enabled Digital Financial Services for Women Project

Financing Agreement reference:     P-Z1-H00-087

Project ID No.:                                  5120155000005

The M-KOPA KENYA has received financing from the African Development Bank toward the cost of the Executing Human Centered Design Research to Test the Applicability of Smartphone-Enabled Digital Financial Services for Women Project, and intends to apply part of the agreed amount to payments under the contract for firm consultant.

The services included under this project are

  • Human Centered Design Research – Structured to cover 375 women and 375 men to give a comparative baseline of how men and women access digital financial services (DFS) and inform unique value propositions for women.
  • Development of the technology/minimum viable product – design of the technology interface jointly with a group of 100 women (drawn from the 250) to ensure relevance to women informal traders, ease of use, factor literacy levels etc.
  • Test the minimum viable product – to be linked to existing DFS services of M-KOPA has, as part of completing the loop (the end-to-end process will inform future capital funding for designing varied micro-loan products required by women beyond the current range - subject to the additional debt financing).

The M-KOPA Kenya now invites eligible consultants to indicate their interest in providing these services. Interested individual consultants must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services (brochures, description of similar assignments, experience in similar conditions, availability of appropriate skills among staff, etc.). Consultants may constitute joint-ventures to enhance their chances of qualification.

Eligibility criteria, establishment of the short-list and the selection procedure shall be in accordance with the African Development Bank’s “Procurement Framework of October 2015”, which is available on the Bank’s website at

Interested consultants may obtain further information at the address below during office hours 8.30 am – 5.00 pm GMT.

Expressions of interest must be delivered electronically to the address below by 8th October, 2021 before 5.00 pm GMT.                                        


Terms of Reference for Software Engineering for Women’s Digital Financial Services


Program: Executing Human-Centred Design Research to Test the Applicability of Smartphone-Enabled Digital Financial Services for Women

Partners: M-KOPA and Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI)

Location of assignment: Remote with potential for onsite work

Regions of Project Operation: Remote, Kenya

Expert profile: Technology Firm

Expertise required: C# and .NET, async microservice integration, CI/CD and infrastructure as code

Expected start date: Q4 2021

Expected duration: 6 Months (including resolution of bugs)

  1. About M-KOPA

M-KOPA (M for mobile and KOPA, Swahili for borrow) pioneered and built one of the world’s most advanced Pay-As-You-Go platforms to upgrade millions of lives in sub-Saharan Africa, combining the power of digital micropayments with IoT (Internet-of-Things) connectivity. Since its launch in 2011, M-KOPA has built one of the world’s most advanced connected asset financing platforms to provide nearly $400 million in financing that has enabled over 1 million customers to access solar lighting, energy-efficient televisions and fridges, smartphones, cash loans, and more.

Since launching PAYG smartphones in 2018, M-KOPA has enabled access to high-quality smartphones to over 400,000 new customers. This innovative financing model offers instant access to the product, while building ownership over time through flexible micro-payments. Once a customer has paid off the instalments for their product, they can leverage this asset and their credit history with M-KOPA to access more products and digital financial services to progress in their life.

  1. About the Project

The uptake of PAYG smartphones in Kenya has inspired M-KOPA to explore the digital financial services and related business and financial literacy skills that could be layered on the phones to enable women SMES grow their businesses to enhance their livelihoods. The project is commencing with the human centered design that applies gender lens in comparative analysis of how men and women access and use smartphones and what are the emerging opportunities and barriers for DFS+ services. This research will be led by an external consultant jointly with M-KOPA.

The Consultancy will hence be required to work with M-KOPA to incorporate the insights of the research into the design of DFS services, specifically secured cash loans for existing customers and focus on the development of software for cash loan orchestration.

The field research insights will inform the features that need to be integrated in the innovation and which will improve customer interactions with the interaction with the Client’s DFS products, specifically secured cash loans for existing customers, and include educational information to improve customer financial literacy. The Consultancy will support the project with MVP build and app functionality that is relevant to informal women-owned businesses.

The Consultancy will also be expected to leverage data that M-KOPA has generated over time in the design of the secured cash loans. i.e since 2010, M-KOPA has leveraged its connected asset financing platform to make essential products and services affordable for over one million households in clean energy, high quality smartphones and other financial products. This data can be used to build a positive credit profile for a customer to access financial products while combining with insights from the field around incentives, loan durations, renegotiations, reminders, and other customer interactions.

Covid-19 represents an ongoing risk in Kenya and proposed approaches should comply with Government guidelines and public health advice at every stage. Proposals should demonstrate risk mitigation strategies. The risks associated with Covid-19 will be constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure the study can be conducted safely.

M-KOPA Labs, the R&D arm of M-KOPA (a global leader of “pay-as-you go” products and services), referred to as “the Client”, will implement a project funded by The African Development Bank (AfDB) Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI)

3. Scope of the Assignment

3.1      Process Flow

The technology firm will be expected to adopt the insights from the HCD work to build a process flow for the products that will be designed. The proposed is a high level basic flow for a customer borrowing cash from M-KOPA is as follows:

  1. Present the customer with the list of available options and their pricing
  2. Customer selects and option and expresses intent to borrow
  3. Serve customer with Terms and Conditions and customer education and protection steps, recording their consent at each stage
  4. Update customer’s account to reflect the new borrowing and or the balance after a loan repayment (based on the repayment timeframe and amounts)
  5. Ensure that the assets that the customer is using to collateralize the loan are online and in a lockable state
  6. Disburse the cash to the customer

All of these steps must be completed in order to successfully lend cash to an M-KOPA customer. Steps 4-6 also form what is typically known as a “saga” or a “distributed transaction”, inasmuch as they should either all succeed or all fail. In particular we are sensitive to failure cases where either (a) the customer receives the cash from M-KOPA but their new borrowing status is not reflected on their account and/or devices or (b) the customer’s account and/or devices are updated correctly but the customer does not receive the cash. Naturally we are also sensitive to race conditions, such as the risk of accidentally paying out money to the customer multiple times.

The technology firm will therefore work with M-KOPA to define and integrate the business rules that will manage loan approval, risks, error handling and security of the customer information.

3.2      Expected Service Architecture

M-KOPA builds software using a microservices architecture and async integration via events/messages. As such the software discussed in this EOI is expected to be delivered in a series of small services.

The exact software architecture will be determined jointly by the vendor and the M-KOPA team as the project evolves. However, the technology firm should expect to build a set of software components that will integrate the following high level components:

  • A web API for exposing cash borrowing options to customers (via M-KOPA’s mobile app)
  • A web API or set of web APIs for serving T&Cs and customer education steps to customers within the mobile app, and for recording customer consents for each of these steps
  • A coordination service to ensure that the customer’s account and devices are in the correct state before disbursing cash (relying on pre-existing internal APIs for assessing account + device state)
  • A “payouts” service for interfacing with mobile money operators and orchestrating + tracking disbursements
  • A reconciliation service for verifying that the correct payouts have been made each day and recording the results of that verification for financial records
  • Build on any additional profile data for the customer that may be useful e.g number of years in business, number of employees, etc
  • Layer in financial literacy or business literacy features where relevant in addition to customer product education, including enabling potential third-party solution integration
  • Allow a customer to propose a new repayment plan in case of business distress; and a process flow for approval/rejecting that request or blacklisting a customer
  • Ensure all error handline, issue reporting and customer care services are integrated into services

Substantially more detail on these proposed services can be provided to pre-qualified bidders, following the signature of an NDA.

  1. Ways of Working

M-KOPA works in a slightly different to many companies who outsource. The first main difference is that M-KOPA has a full technology and product management team, and typically only outsources to meet external funding restrictions and/or bolster capacity over short time periods. The second is that use of agile product development methodologies, meaning that M-KOPA fully expects the scope and approach for this work to evolve as it is being delivered.

The technology firm will have to factor in the below:

  • M-KOPA provides product management
  • M-KOPA provides architectural guidance and technical oversight
  • Vendor provides a full engineering team, with delivery capacity and sufficient senior engineering leadership to align the team day-to-day with M-KOPA’s standards
  • Work is planned using agile workflows, and iterated on continuously

To conform with these ways of working, please bear in mind that competitive proposals:

  • Will not include substantial costs for product management or other non-technical management
  • Will be time + materials, rather than fixed price
  • Will include an estimate of the scope of the work, to give M-KOPA a sense of how the technology firm approaches design + estimation
  • Will describe how the technology firm is able to provide technical management and day-to-day oversight of their engineering team
  • Will include a lightweight “opt-out” clause, allowing M-KOPA to terminate the contract quickly if the pace of delivery falls below what we consider to be reasonable (this is rarely used, but it is an important protection in the context of time + materials contracting, especially when we are working upstream with potentially risk-averse funders who are used to fixed price contracts)
  1. Minimum Technical Expectations
  • Vendors should be able to provide a full engineering team, including day-to-day technical management. (Vendors are expected to review their own pull requests and ensure that work done by their team conforms to architectural standards communicated by M-KOPA)
  • Vendors should be comfortable working under the guidance of M-KOPA’s product management team, using agile methodologies
  • Vendors should be able to demonstrate expertise with C# and .NET Core
  • Vendors should be able to demonstrate comfort with asynchronous, messaging-based software integration patterns
  • Vendors should be able to demonstrate comfort with Microsoft Azure and with modern CI/CD and infrastructure-as-code workflows. (We deploy everything via automated pipelines to Azure Kubernetes Service, and your team should be comfortable working in this kind of environment).

Initial submissions from vendors should provide clear assertions on all of these points. Vendors who do not meet these requirements will not be selected for the contract so there is no advantage to be gained from.

  1. Initial Submission Requirements and Proposed Work Allocation

For your initial submission please provide the following documentation:

  1. An assertion of the following technical competencies for your team:
    1. Technical competency with C# and .NET.
    2. Comfort with async microservice integration (using tools like Azure Service Bus or Azure Event Hub)
    3. Comfort with CI/CD and infrastructure as code
  2. Acknowledgement of the following factors:
    1. Comfort that M-KOPA will provide product management services and that your engineering team will be able to engage productively within an agile software product framework
    2. The capability to provide engineering management and technical oversight for your engineering team (including architectural oversight, code review, etc.)
    3. Comfort with time-and-materials billing and the ability to balance the associated risks by providing an easy opt-out clause for both parties
  3. Examples of successful agile software products conducted by your company at the scale of this EOI and at least three references for previous work done

Please submit the documentation to by 8th October 2021.

Prequalified bidders will be provided with a further project detail following NDA execution.


Deadline (days from start of consultancy)

Working with M-KOPA design and product management teams to lock down the process flows, features of the products etc from the HCD research


  1. Criteria and Selection Process

The Consultant must be a national of African Development Bank (AfDB) member countries and can be based anywhere. The full list of eligible regional and non-regional member countries can be found here.

An M-KOPA review team will evaluate and score all applications based on the following considerations and weighting:

Selection Criterion




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