Reaching rural clients requires low-cost channels, especially in rural sub-Saharan Africa where communities are very spread out and bank branches do not exist. Many financial institutions, however, lack the expertise to either digitize their banking services or make them accessible for rural clients who may have limited literacy or limited confidence in using digital technologies.
Opportunity has always been a leader in technological innovation to best serve clients. We introduced mobile banks—secured vehicles that brought physical banking infrastructure to rural communities so that farmers and rural families could borrow, save and complete transactions. Then, as cell phones became more prominent throughout Africa and Asia, we developed and leveraged mobile money technology—first using SMS, and then advancing as additional options became available.
Today, Opportunity provides technical assistance for financial institutions, including:
- Mobile banking to help farmers digitally transfer funds and conduct banking activities from their phones.
- Agent banker networks made up of local entrepreneurs who are trained to accept deposits and withdrawals and open accounts on behalf of financial institutions.
- Digital loan applications and credit scoring to help loan officers originate loan applications in the field and immediately assess a farmer’s financial capacity.
- Integrating data into decision-making through improved collection and use of data to better understand and modify loan products and services to meet farmers’ needs.
By improving access to digital financial services, Opportunity is helping:
- Increase access to finance for rural and excluded communities. For example, rural mothers, who normally would not have the time or ability to visit a bank, can conveniently use their phones to access financial services.
- Make rural banking services more sustainable. With digital tools, financial institutions can serve rural groups more easily and cost-effectively.
- Design innovative services for rural groups. Digital services enable Opportunity to gather data about the financial needs and habits of rural clients and design new solutions to better serve excluded groups.