The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has recently announced an advisory services agreement with Mircrofinance Institute Advans Cameroun geared at expediting the rate of financial inclusion in Cameroon by expanding the range and reach of services available to underserved urban and rural populations.
This agreement is under the umbrella of the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a $37.4 million joint initiative by the IFC and the MasterCard Foundation set up to upscale “commercial microfinance and develop mobile financial services to increase financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Based on the agreement, IFC will, over the next four years, provide advisory services worth $1.18 million to Advans Cameroun, helping to pilot and roll out a branchless banking model that will involve mini branches, mobile collectors and agents.
Access to credit remains a challenge for the developing world, of which Africa is forerunner, and the implications include significant poverty rates. In Cameroon, exclusion from financial services is particularly acute in the agricultural sector, which employs about 60 percent of the country’s population; and this is principally because of the high cost of establishing branches of formal financial institutions in sparsely populated areas.
“After successfully building a strong presence in urban centers, Advans Cameroun’s objective is to develop its outreach in rural areas. This project will allow us to provide easy and convenient access to financial services and solutions for small-scale entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers and generally the low-income population,” said Steven Duchatelle, Head of Operations at the Advans Group.
Also commenting on the development, Greta Bull, IFC Advisory Services Manager for the Financial Institutions Group in sub-Saharan Africa, said, “The agreement between IFC and Advans Cameroon highlights the need to develop innovative financial products and delivery channels for people in rural areas. The tools developed will have the potential to reach over 60,000 new customers, and will have a significant impact on their ability to access secure and affordable financial services.”
The financial inclusion situation in Cameroon has long been due for a breath of fresh air. Current World Bank data suggests that less than 20 percent of adult males in the country have accounts with a formal financial institution; for females, this number lies in the neighborhood of 10 per cent. Also, only 2 percent of the population use credit and debit cards, and just about 4 percent have obtained loans from a financial institution in the past year.
By Emmanuel Iruobe