The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved two grants of $1.3 million for research aimed to increase African women’s access to a range of digital financial services, including loans and micro-insurance.
According to a statement from the AfDB on Monday, the grants for $1 million and $300,000 respectively, will be disbursed through the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI).
ADFI is a pan-African initiative designed to accelerate digital financial inclusion throughout Africa.
It is a blended finance facility of AfDB with two financial technology firms; Pula Advisors Kenya Ltd. and M-KOPA Kenya Ltd.
Pula Advisors will use the $1 million for research of social, cultural and economic factors that impact women farmers’ access to micro-insurance in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.
Moreover, M-KOPA would use the $300,000 grant funding for research involving 250 women and 250 men in Kenya’s Kisumu, Eldoret and Machakos counties.
The company would assess the barriers to and opportunities for women’s access to digital financial services and financial literacy programmes.
These would be done via smartphone, and use the research insights to design a financial services app that is relevant to small-scale women traders.
Sheila Okiro, the bank’s Coordinator for ADFI said: “This grant funding will be used to leverage technology to develop innovative and responsive loan and insurance products that can spur productivity and inclusion, especially for our women smallholder farmers and traders.”
The AfDB also noted that research findings would inform the design and implementation of gender-centric insurance products and the project would be for a three-year time frame.
The project will have three phases: product development; piloting; and scaling.
The outcomes are expected to benefit 360,000 farmers, 50 per cent of them women, as well as boost farm yields by up to 30 per cent.
This would also raise incomes and enhance household and national food security.
The project was approved by the bank on Feb. 9, 2020 and would benefit women with no or limited access to financial services that run small informal businesses.
According to the statement, once developed, the mobile app will be used to pilot small loans to the women traders.
Both projects align with ADFI’s digital products and innovation and capacity building intervention pillars as well as its cross-cutting focus on gender inclusion.
The PULA grant approval meets the AfDB’s strategic goals to feed Africa and improve the quality of life for Africans, and the financial inclusion strategies of Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.
Furthermore, the M-KOPA project is aligned with the bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program that seeks to increase access to finance for women.