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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 an individual 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.).

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 30th September, 2021 before 5.00 pm GMT.                            


Terms of Reference for Gender/HCD Work 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 some onsite work

Regions to be covered: Kisumu, Machakos, Eldoret, Nairobi

Expert profile: Individual Consultant

Skills required: Gender and HCD research expertise

Expected start date: As soon as possible

Expected duration: 30 non-consecutive working days over a period of 3 months

  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 digital financial services and related app-based business and financial literacy services accessible through phones to enable women SMES to grow their businesses and enhance livelihoods.

The project will involve conducting Human Centered Design (HCD) research with 750 participants in Kenya’s Kisumu, Eldoret, Machakos and Nairobi regions. The research phase of this project will assess the inhibiting and encouraging factors related to women’s uptake of digital financial services and financial literacy programmes via smartphone and use the research insights to design financial services app functionality that is relevant to informal women-owned businesses.

Rural women are disproportionately stymied from accessing financial services to start and grow enterprises, burdened with time-consuming responsibilities at home, limited in accessing suppliers and customers because of gendered social norms, excluded from financial literacy-building and decision-making opportunities, among other barriers. Access to affordable, high-quality smartphones represents a platform to innovate around such barriers and raise awareness of flexible, non-punitive digital lending. Many women, however, have never used a smartphone as a secured asset before, therefore it is anticipated that perceptions are skewed towards unsecure, high-cost digital loans pervasive in Kenya.

The project will explore a new model to digital lending with smartphone ownership, allowing the voice of the customer to lead the design process. The research will employ HCD concepts and an integrated gender lens to better uncover customer needs and challenges and develop an MVP solution to test at pilot stage. The initial research and discovery stage will include telephone surveys, focus group discussions and user testing, and the successful research partner will be supported by M-KOPA’s Market Research Team and field-based staff as required.

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 this project jointly with the M-KOPA Kenya team.

  1. Scope of Work

The consultant is expected to work alongside M-KOPA teams to lead the design of the research methodology, the tools and indicators that will be used to execute the work in Eldoret, Kisumu, Machakos and Nairobi. The overarching research areas and methodologies have been proposed below but the Applicant will be required to provide additional suggestions, expansions, or innovation to develop and implement a successful research study and demonstrate how HCD and Gender features in and supports their approach.

2.1 Proposed High Level Research Areas:

  1. Current usage of smartphones by women for digital financial services (DFS) and related areas such as financial literacy.
  2. Women’s behavior and attitude in owning and using smartphones and emerging opportunities for DFS.
  3. Application of gender lens in the analysis of dynamics around DFS access and implications on women.
  4. Assessing men and women’s ownership and usage of smartphone and linking it to use of DFS services and financial inclusion.
  5. Identify specific barriers and opportunities that impede or enable women to access smartphones and DFS services in comparison to their male counterparts.
  6. Assessment of financial and tech literacy and behaviours and perceptions around common DFS products.
  7. Identification of participants who would be suitable customers for the HCD product development stage of the project.
  8. Assess the willingness of men and women to pay for DFS services and or to Pay to access a smartphone device in order to unlock multiple DFS opportunities.

2.2 Proposed Research Methodology

Propose a mix of qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques:

  1. Quantitative Techniques: Telephone survey with sample of 750 – to be drawn across Eldoret; Kisumu; Machakos and Nairobi. Split between men and women to be 50/50.
  2. Qualitative Technique – Focus Group Discussions:
  • Proposed – 8 FGDs (2 per identified region)
  • Preferred sample design – 1 group female respondents only; 1 group (mixed males and females)

3. Design Workshops: Bring women FGD participants into the design process for early testing and user feedback on MVP and DFS menu via M-KOPA App. This stage will take place during the MVP build, anticipated in Q4 2021.

Proposals should set out a cost-effective means of implementing the research study to satisfactory results, whilst also ensuring value for money.

2.3 Schedule and Deliverables

The consultancy will be for three (3) months, from October to December 2021 and will be broken down in the following sections:

  • October: kick-off workshop, desk-based research, and questionnaire development.
  • October: telephone surveys and FGDs begin (pending Covid-19 measures and restrictions).
  • December: final analysis, set of recommendations and final workshop.


2.4 Geographical location

Research will be conducted in the regions of Kisumu, Eldoret, Machakos and Nairobi.

  1. Proposal Instructions and Expected Content

Interested Consultants are requested to submit a short proposal (no more than 10 x A4 pages with a CV) addressing the following expected content by 30th September 2021. Please submit your proposal to

  • Approach and methodology which sets out:
    • The means by which they will undertake the required tasks on a time and expenses basis:
      • designing a field research methodology, including a survey, to investigate the research questions,
      • implementing the field research process, and
      • collecting, summarising and analysing results.
    • The approach and methodology for sample selection, survey site selection, questionnaire design, use of surveying tools, focus on women’s participation in research, training of enumerators, as well as other relevant tasks.
    • The techniques for ensuring the maximum possible accuracy of the data collected. In particular, it should identify ways in which expressed demand for DFS is linked to customers’ ability to pay, and not just an expression of aspirational demand.
    • Proposed questionnaire for telephone surveys and outline of HCD focus group design.
    • Clear demonstration of how the research will be conducted within Government Covid-19 guidelines and public health advice. Special consideration should be given to conducting socially-distanced focus group discussions.
  • Workplan:
    • This will outline proposed activities and respective timelines.
  • Budget:
    • Provide a breakdown of consultant time allocation and expenses for each activity.
  • Consultant CV:
    • Include short bio of how Consultant’s experience matches the role and project scope.
    • Provide short examples of similar work conducted which showcase the Consultant’s familiarity and expertise with the request.
  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.

The Consultant must have a university degree (Bachelors or Masters) in a relevant field such as design, research, gender, anthropology, or other social sciences and must be proficient in English. The consultant must have at least 5 years of experience working on similar engagements in Kenya and demonstrate experience in designing gender intentional financial solutions in rural contexts. An M-KOPA review team will evaluate and score all applications based on the following considerations and weighting:

Selection Criterion




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