Pula Advisors and M-KOPA have received received funding from AfDB to research on women’s access to digital financial services.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved the two grants for research that will increase African women’s access to digital financial services including loans and micro-insurance.

The grants, for Ksh. 110 million ($1 million) and Ksh. 33 million ($300,000) respectively, will be disbursed through the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion (ADFI) facility. The facility, supported by the AfDB, will then relay the funds to two financial technology firms, Pula Advisors and M-KOPA.

Pula Advisors will use the Ksh. 110 million for research of social, cultural and economic factors that impact women farmers’ access to micro-insurance in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia. Research findings will inform the design and implementation of gender-centric insurance products. The project will be undertaken over a 3-year time frame.

“This grant funding will be used to leverage technology to develop innovative and responsive loan and insurance products that can spur productivity and inclusion, especially for our women smallholder farmers and traders.” said Sheila Okiro, the Bank’s Coordinator for ADFI.

The three-year project will have three phases

  • Product development
  • Piloting
  • Scaling

The outcomes are expected to benefit farmers, 50% of them women, as well as boost farm yields by up to 30%. This will also raise incomes and enhance household and national food security.

M-KOPA will use the Ksh. 33 million grant funding for research involving 250 women and 250 men in Kenya’s Kisumu, Eldoret and Machakos counties. The company will assess the barriers to and opportunities for women’s access to digital financial services and financial literacy programs. The research insights will then be used to design a financial services app that is relevant to small-scale women traders.

The project, approved by the Bank on 9 February, 2021, will benefit women with no or limited access to financial services that run small informal businesses. Once developed, the mobile app will be used to pilot small loans to the women traders.

The Pula grant approval meets AfDB’s strategic goals, including the ten-year strategy. The M-KOPA project is aligned with the bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program that seeks to increase access to finance for women.

ADFI is a pan-African initiative designed to accelerate digital financial inclusion throughout Africa to enable residents gain access to the formal economy. The facility was formally launched in June 2019 at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

ADFI partners include

  • The French Development Agency (AFD);
  • The French Treasury’s Ministry of Economy and Finance;
  • The Government of Luxembourg’s Ministry of Finance;
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The African Development Bank (AfDB), which also hosts the fund.