Global SME Finance Forum 2019

The Convergence of the Real and Financial Sectors in SME Finance

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The Netherlands | October 7-9, 2019

Increasingly, the largest and/or fastest growing SME financiers globally did not start out as banks. Whether from tech companies, logistics firms, commodities traders or even Fast-Moving Consumer Goods distributors, competition from the real sector is gaining traction in the SME segment. The real sector firms come into SME financing armed with substantial data resources and analytical skills. How is the traditional financial sector going to deal with this? Is it all threat, or is there also an opportunity from these new entrants? This year’s Global SME Finance Forum will examine the different ways in which the real sector has entered the SME finance space, and the various ways in which financiers and regulators are coping with the “new kids on the block.” Learn more about the Global SME Finance Forum 2019

BFA / FIBR members benefit from 25% discount. Use code SMEFF19Partner25

PAYGo NEXT: Powering Business with Predictive Insights and Automation

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Last week, our team was at the Global Off-Grid and Lighting Association (GOGLA) Annual General Meeting in Amsterdam. This is the member-facing off-grid solar industry event where we had the chance to present the PAYGo NEXT Innovation Gallery: Powering Business with Predictive Insights and Automation. Attendees had the chance to experience latest in applied machine learning to help solve the pressing problems that PAYGo businesses face today.

For the first time at GOGLA, PAYGo NEXT brought the practical power of AI to members hands with:

  1. Churn prediction models to help identify customers at risk and better target customers for repayment

  2. Robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline time-consuming backend processes and examples of chatbot for agents

  3. Geospatial maps to visualize potential markets for expansion using predictive analytics and public data sets

  4. An app for optimizing field operations for agents to reduce cash transfer risk

Learn more about BFA’s PAYGo AI applications by visiting and read BFA’s work in PAYGo innovation and implementation with leading providers. View the presentation below of the various AI-powered business tools and applications that BFA has developed with PAYGo partners.

Webinar: How Can Small Merchants Get The Most Out of E-commerce Using Superplatforms?


Small merchants in emerging markets are increasingly adopting digital commerce to expand their customer base and market their goods and services on online marketplaces. These merchants are using digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Jumia and WhatsApp to promote their businesses, sell their goods and services, communicate with clients and suppliers and to receive payments.

At FIBR, we have been researching superplatforms to determine their value proposition to micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs). What value do these platforms provide directly and indirectly to merchants? How are these superplatforms helping merchants to build and grow their businesses? Who are the merchants that sell online and what is the role of trust in these interactions?

Our latest research shows that small, informal merchants are using social media and messaging platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to advertise their business, market goods and services, and communicate with clients. The uses, interactions, and workarounds by micro, small & medium enterprises (MSME) in Africa to sell online through these platforms offer insights into 1) personas 2) needs such as for financing their business, and 3) product and service concepts that could help small merchants close gaps in skills, working capital, and business intelligence.

Join FIBR’s webinar and panel discussion to learn how merchants benefit from superplatforms and digital commerce. The webinar covers how merchants are using digital platforms and how superplatforms can better serve merchants.

When: 28th February 2019, 9am-10:00am EST

Meet the Speakers

Additional Reference

  1. Superplatforms Tumblr - updates from our ongoing research and thinking

  2. FIBR Superplatforms - a compilation of our work up to date and our research hypotheses

  3. FIBR Superplatforms Whitepaper - the seminal paper by FIBR that examines the rise of superplatforms and their potential in pulling users in Africa into formal and digital economies

FIBR Conference 2018: Fintech Disruption, Innovation, and Partnerships

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Join us for a two-day event where we’ll stage a live debate on hot-button issues in the financial industry, explore how to innovate and forge joint ventures more effectively, and demo new tech applications for financial inclusion.

Date: December 4 - 5

Venue: Nairobi, Kenya

Hitting the Sweet Spot: What Do Small Merchants Need to Survive and Grow Their Business?

Photo Credit: John Won

Photo Credit: John Won

MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium enterprises) need capital. They need startup capital, they need expansion capital and they also need working capital to manage their day-to-day operations. The small merchants in Africa that we’ve been researching at FIBR, these shopkeepers, need several types of financing to manage the ups and downs of a small and often informal, retail business. And yet, the offering between traditional and digital tech lenders is still missing the mark for the financial needs of merchants. How can we better design financial solutions that are relevant for the way small merchants manage their operations and finances to keep their business going and growing?

Join FIBR’s webinar and panel discussion on small merchants and what they need to succeed. The webinar covers our insights from designing and piloting a credit solution for merchants and our research on the financial ecosystems of merchants. Following, the panel discussion will help us explore the current challenges and realities that providers and investors face in closing the gap for MSME financing.

Meet the Speakers

Read Our MSME Blogs

Global SME Finance Forum November 2018


Date: 05 - 07 November

Location: Madrid, Spain

Under the theme “Reaching the Informal: the Role of Finance in Improving the Growth and Productivity of SMEs”,  the forum will explore how innovation in technology, regulation and partnerships can help overcome various informality problems, and open up a far larger market for profitable, sustainable, responsible financial services. 

Webinar: "Artificial Intelligence: Practical Superpowers," a New Report by BFA

Following the launch (May 16th) of the FIBR report, “Artificial Intelligence: Practical Superpowers,” we are hosting a follow-up webinar to present the paper and its insights.

As one of the first reports that looks at AI applied to financial services in Africa, this webinar is for fintech companies and FSPs in Africa, that might be interested or looking to move into AI.

By presenting insights from the report and having a panel discussion, we seek to create awareness around the real-use cases of AI for FSPs that can augment the ability of companies to do business better with AI-powered tools.

  • When: 6 June 2018, 9am-10:00am EST

  • What and Where: Presentation and panel via webinar


  1. Matt Grasser, Deputy Director of Inclusive Fintech | BFA

  2. Qiuyan Xu, Chief Data Scientist | Cignifi

  3. Andrea Ottina, Chief Business Development Officer | Access Tanzania

  4. Sheel Mohot, Partner | 500 startups

Moderated by Jane del Ser, Insights & Influence at BFA


Related Content

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