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Enhancing access to financial services in northern Nigeria through female agent networks

Y’ello Digital Financial Services (YDFS), Nigeria  
Context

Despite being the continent’s largest economy, access to financial services in Nigeria is still a challenge for millions of people, particularly in rural areas, leading to an estimated 55% of the total population remaining unbanked  (EfFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria Survey 2020).  

Recent research has highlighted challenges women in northern Nigeria are facing, including poverty, a lack of financial empowerment, a lack of opportunity to compete in business, a lack of access to credit facilities and high unemployment. It is, however, a region with a high level of potential demand despite insufficient financial access points and there is growing evidence that increasing the number of women agents could attract more female clients due to social norms and safety concerns about interacting with male agents.

This grant supports Y’ello Digital Financial Services (YDFS) to facilitate greater gender inclusion by exploring the potential role of women in agency banking to increase women’s adoption of digital financial services. The research, which includes a feasibility study, women-focused design and testing, will focus on both agents and customers to provide insights into women’s use of mobile money services.

Objectives

This project, supported by the grant from the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility, enables Y’ello Digital Financial Services to gather insights through a feasibility study and human centric design research. The insight from the grant will inform the next phase, which will help expand YDFS existing super-agent network in northern Nigeria  to attract more women into the agent business and more women customers.

Analyse feasibility of a women-led agent network in the Northern part of Nigeria

  • Explore conditions under which YDFS can increase the number of high-potential agents that are active and profitable on a long-term basis
  • Understand critical success factors to be taken into consideration to successfully roll-out the project in the north of Nigeria including improvement of agent onboarding processes, relationships between agents and commercial staff, responsive customer service/complaints management and capturing cash circulation in the market
  • Evaluate the potential of the demand in the region in terms of number of agents and end-user onboarding
  • Develop an action plan to manage the agent network to contribute to regional economic growth

Identify key drivers that can make a women-focused agent network impactful in terms of women’s empowerment and women’s access to and usage of financial services.

  • Better understand aspirations and constraints for women’s entry to the agent business and viable value proposition to potential women customers to take up financial service
  • Develop a collaborative environment with women as partners and a positive customer experience with women as digital financial services users
  • Verify research findings and recommendations through women-focused design and prototyping with a sample of women agents in three locations in order to compare the outcomes
Outcomes

This project addresses many of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Bank’s High 5 priorities to contribute to greater economic growth, strengthen the infrastructure and reduce poverty and gender inequality.

The plan is to use insight from the feasibility study, human centric design and testing to inform the implementation of a gender intentional agent network expansion strategy.

Impact

The expected impact is that, by 2024, the number of active female agents will increase from 4,396 to 34,425  and serve over 13 million customers, of whom over 6 million will be female. 

  • Increased financial inclusion in Nigeria, particularly among women.
  • Greater empowerment among women agents in terms of employment and income generation.

ADFI Focus Areas

Gender Inclusivity
Digital Products and Innovation

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