Africa SME Finance Forum 2018


Date: 15th - 16th May

Location: Nairobi

The Africa SME Finance Forum 2018 will examine the key challenges faced by MSMEs in Africa, and explore innovative local and global best practice solutions to promote youth entrepreneurship and enhance access to financing for MSMEs. The conference will focus on how Africa is harnessing digital technology to disrupt traditional banking industry and to create new banking infrastructure to fill gaps where there has been a lack of access to financial services. Topics covered include blockchain and SME finance, incumbent and "challenger" banking, electronic payments and remittances, and youth entrepreneurship finance.

The Africa Forum will also feature global good practices and cutting-edge innovations by bringing leading and successful innovators, internationally recognized experts, and successful practitioners to share their perspectives and experiences. The conference will be preceded by member only study visits to financial institutions and fintechs that have innovative ways of serving SMEs clients.

Webinar: Escaping Darkness: Consumer Value in PAYGo


Pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) solar is one of the most exciting trends in both energy access and financial inclusion. PAYGo's value proposition for the consumer has often been explained purely in terms of net savings and reduced kerosene spending. But results from research funded by CGAP and FIBR present a more nuanced picture of a financing model that provides great value to customers but can leave them vulnerable to exploitation.

In this webinar, CGAP and FIBR will present the results of our research in Kenya, Tanzania, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, taking a close look at some of the more controversial insights. Are customers saving money, or are they in debt over their heads? Can providers find a way to encourage joint spousal loan decisions, or is that asking too much, too soon? And is there a way to bring this model to the lowest income households? With input from the PAYGo sector and CGAP's Gender and Financial Inclusion Community of Practice, a frank and open discussion will ultimately focus on the question: Does this model work for the end consumer?

Date: March 6th, 2018

Time: 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. (U.S. EST)


Julie Zollmann (BFA) was lead researcher into PAYGo consumer insights for this project. She works both independently and with BFA to understand the demand side of retail financial service markets. As a senior associate at BFA, she worked on research to better understand consumer responses to electronic government transfer payments, consumer needs and preferences in savings devices, and financial capability in the context of branchless banking. 

Daniel Waldron (CGAP) is a researcher specializing in business models that leverage digital finance to achieve development objectives. He heads the water and energy work done by CGAP under Digital Finance Plus and managed the CGAP-FIBR research into PAYGo. He has authored numerous publications on the potential of PAYGo solar and has managed digital finance research in Asia and Africa. He holds a bachelor of fine arts and a masters in international development.

Paul Warnars (Off Grid Electric) is the head of Customer and Market Intelligence at Off Grid Electric, a pay-as-you-go solar provider operating in East and West Africa. Paul is in charge of new market scoping, customer insight studies, baseline country profiles, competitor analysis, and quarterly customer metrics. He has been with Off Grid Electric for four and a half years, and has lived in East Africa for six years. He holds a bachelor of business economics, bachelor of philosophy, and master of science in international development studies.

Yasmin Bin-Humam (CGAP) is a financial sector specialist at CGAP focusing on gender issues. She facilitates a community of practice on women's financial inclusion. Before joining CGAP, Yasmin developed indicators measuring women's equality under the law for the World Bank's Women, Business and the Law project and contributed to publications on legal barriers to women's economic empowerment. Her prior work experience spans the public, private, and non-governmental sectors. Yasmin holds JD and MSFS degrees from Georgetown University and a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard.


Read the report: Escaping Darkness: Understanding Consumer Value in PAYGo Solar

Our other work focusing on PAYGo Solar: PAYGO Solar Briefing Note

Learn more about CGAP's work: PAYGo Solar

Superplatforms in Africa: Not if, but When


The entry of Superplatforms into Africa is inevitable, and there will be repercussions for financial services providers, regulators and customers. There’s a huge opportunity for providers to work with local Fintechs and businesses and to expand and create positive two-way relationships with small and medium enterprises. Read the blog and download the report on Inclusive Digital Ecosystems of the Future.

The Superplatforms are Coming … And They Will Transform Financial Inclusion

David Porteous / Olga Morawczynski


For decades experts have claimed that banks are dead or dying, but they have persisted. However, the entrance of new internet giants or “superplatforms” into financial services may finally spell doom for some traditional financial institutions.

Read the blog on how internet giants are transforming financial services and download the report on Inclusive Digital Ecosystems of the Future.

Escaping Darkness: Understanding Consumer Value in PAYGo Solar


This second report by CGAP and FIBR seeks to understand the value that customers derived from PAYGo solar and how they afford it. Going deeper than most surveys, this paper highlights the customers’ own words, along with aggregated insights—a blend of evidence and analysis while offering concrete recommendations for how providers can improve value to customers. 

Read the blog by CGAP here and download the report here. View the clever battery hacks that we saw in Ghana, Tanzania and Cote d'Ivoire to power light sources and charge mobile phones.

Amolo Ng'weno, BFA's Regional Director, taking over as FIBR Project Director

Amolo Ngweno BFA (300x300) Pixels.jpg

In January 2018, Amolo Ng'weno will be taking over from David Porteous as FIBR Project Director. Amolo is the Regional Director of BFA’s Nairobi office and Director of our Finance for Life Team. An early tech entrepreneur in Africa, she understands the entrepreneurial space well, but also spent time as a Deputy Director of the Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor Program -- as such, Amolo also deeply understands the donor and development community.

As FIBR Project Director, she will work with the FIBR team and partners to pull through useful and productive learnings during the second half of the project. Please join us in welcoming Amolo in this role!

Inclusive digital ecosystems of the future

digital ecosystems

In this second FIBR white paper, we consider the likely effects of an important new phenomenon that may accelerate the ‘pull’ factor of digital ecosystems—the rise of superplatforms. At the time of the launch of FIBR, the potential force of this phenomenon was not yet fully in view but the growth of superplatforms in China since even 2015 confirms that they are a factor to be taken seriously by a project like FIBR and by funders like Mastercard Foundation, which seek to promote innovative and client-centric solutions that work for low-income people. This paper describes and explores the phenomenon from different angles in order to explore potential implications for Africa and the environment in which FIBR and its partners will operate over the coming years. Download the report .

This infographic, a companion to the White Paper, visually walks users through the phenomenon explored by the paper - "the rise of the superplatforms." This infographic explores different dimensions of the phenomenon, including implications for stakeholders and clients in Africa over the next years through 2030. 


A Quick Guide to Nanoprojects: A Lean Method for Product Design

 Image Credit:  Tech in Asia

Image Credit: Tech in Asia

A nanoproject is an exercise in shortcutting the often-slow process of uncovering and understanding the risks inherent in a partner, product, and/or service.

Nanoprojects seek to take the shortest path from an idea to the learnings generated through pilots and trials. Having these lessons in hand earlier and faster means the organization is exposed to less risk when introducing new products or services. In particular, nanoprojects seek to lower:

Project Risk. Miscalculations around timing & scope, and how they affect budget and program deadlines.

Partner Risk. The extent to which new products and services often include new partners and institutional configurations, issues of bandwidth, ability to communicate clearly and honestly, focus, technical capacity, and chemistry across and within organizations are each examples of risks relating to a new or existing partner.

Product/Market Risk. Any issues related to product/market fit: the products’ targets, their problem(s), our solution(s), the channel(s) through which the solutions will be delivered, the utility or effectiveness of the solution in the real world, and the associated pricing.

Technical Risk. Whether tools are readily available and/or can be built to accomplish the task in the time allotted. Also includes feasibility of new integrations, conversion of existing records to digital data, and the networks and other hardware available to the partners and the product’s targets.

Learn more here