In September 2011, UNCDF in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation launched a sixty ear expansion of the MicroLead programme that aimed to increase access to savings driven microfinance to a minimum 450,000 low income individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa. The programme’s intention was to attract experienced institutions or networks from developed and developing countries to increase the capacity of financial institutions providing low balance savings either through the provision of technical assistance to financial service providers (FSPs) or through the establishment of greenfield institutions. MLE also has a strong focus on harnessing the potential of technology driven alternate delivery channels (ADCs) and financial education in broadening outreach to financial services. The projects selected were diverse and included downscaling of banks and the establishment of greenfield institutions, financial cooperative creation and strengthening, savings group linkages to formal financial institutions, MFI transformation into deposit-taking institutions, human-centered product design, and deployment of ADCs such as mobile money, rural agents, susu collectors and point of sale devices. Main findings may be summarized as follows:
MLE is a highly relevant savings focused programme in countries with high degrees of financial exclusion and low financial depth.
The MLE programme is also well-aligned with FIPA’s mandate to build inclusive financial systems through a comprehensive sector development approach.
The programme’s focus on furthering access to savings for low income rural and female clients, emphasis on financial education of clients as well as development of alternate delivery channels is well-suited to catalyze demand as well as access to financial services in SubSaharan Africa.
However, with regard to gender and outreach, the focus needs to shift beyond setting outreach targets and include an assessment of the suitability of products to the needs of female clients as well as clients’ satisfaction with the services provided.