Pilot Project Report: Using Mobile Money to Link Savings Groups to Financial Institutions
Due to a growing need for both greater security for their funds and increased access to financial services for savings group members, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have started programs linking groups to formal financial services. After completing a promising feasibility study in late 2012, Freedom from Hunger formally initiated a pilot project to facilitate financial linkages to savings groups in Northern Burkina Faso (Passoré Province) via the Airtel Money product, in collaboration with Airtel Burkina and Ecobank Burkina.
The pilot project included four major steps, accomplished in 2013 and 2014:
1) Developing a strong and effective partnership among stakeholders.
2) Adapting Airtel’s existing mobile-money product to meet the needs of the savings group members, and developing a formal Ecobank group savings account.
3) Developing and delivering a financial education module aimed at helping savings group members gauge their readiness to access appropriate savings services.
4) Supporting local implementing NGOs in the practical steps of linking to financial services through activities such as trainings and community meetings and for forging local partnerships.
By the end of the pilot, 148 savings groups had opened Airtel Money savings accounts and had made an estimated total deposit of US$10,374 (FCFA 5,187,000). By the end of September 2014, 64 percent of the savings groups that had opened an Airtel Money savings account had become eligible to open an Ecobank account and indicated their willingness to do so.
An assessment in mid 2014 including group members and Airtel agents revealed that although the momentum behind the project is growing, it is important to continue addressing some key challenges. For instance, both Airtel agents and mobile-savvy members are spending extra time teaching members who are having difficulty navigating the phones. When phones do not receive the Airtel signal in some areas, members are encouraged to travel to areas with a signal. Airtel agents and distributors emphasize that there is still a great need to "raise awareness" or to teach the women about the reliability of the Airtel Money account. They recognize that trust in the system will need to be built through repeated usage and increased familiarity over time, especially for members who are still interested in keeping cash at home.
This pilot project has exhibited the eagerness of the partners involved and an increased demand for savings accounts by savings groups over time.