Rural smallholder families in sub-Saharan Africa remain the most financially excluded households in the world.
To address this phenomenon, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the MasterCard Foundation are involved in initiatives that contribute to professionalisation of the agricultural sector and diversification of rural economies through enhancing access to appropriate, affordable and sustainable financial and technical services.
The Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers in Africa Project (FISFAP) is a US$15million, five-year project that aims to improve food security and incomes of over 700,000 farmers in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.
FISFAP seeks to enable partnerships between financial service providers, value chain actors such as agro dealers and aggregators, and mobile network operators to develop appropriate and affordable (digital) products and services for smallholders.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing region in terms of digital infrastructure and mobile phone usage, with 329 million unique subscribers in 2014 (38% coverage). It is also the region with the highest level of mobile money penetration; by December 2014, 23% of mobile connections were linked with a mobile money account.
Mobile money is bringing financial services to millions of previously unbanked and underbanked people around the world, making the industry a key enabler of financial inclusion. In sub-Saharan Africa, 17 countries have more registered mobile money accounts than bank accounts.
The emerging digital highways in the target countries allow financial services to reach farmers at a much lower cost and with reduced risks, and FISFAP supports the development, piloting and roll-out of these (digital) products and services as long as they present a business case for all partners involved and end-to-end solution for smallholder farmers.
The MasterCard Foundation was created in 2006 and is based in Toronto, Canada; and it seeks, among others, to promote financial inclusion in sub-Sahara Africa. It is working on the premise that transformational impacts in Africa can come from enabling farmers, among others, to access appropriate financial services, skills and markets.
This structural transformation process is critical to economic growth and poverty reduction across the continent. AGRA, on the other hand, seeks to be the catalyst for a major shift in African agriculture, changing the reality of farmers from a solitary struggle to survive to a viable source of income linked to a vibrant agriculture sector.