SIA Financial Literacy Repositions Over 200k Micro Entrepreneurs

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The Africa office of US-based Strategic Impact Advisors (SIA) have, through simplified, compelling and free digital finance literacy, improved the economic conditions of over 200,000 micro entrepreneurs in Africa, of which over 75% are women.  

The 200,000 plus beneficiaries include some 70,000 in Ghana alone, where the Africa office of SIA is headquartered, out of 45,000 are women. The remaining 130,000 are spread across mainly Malawi, Liberia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.

Techgh24 run into the Africa Lead for SIA, Wisdom K. Alorwuse and he had been sharing some details of the two key digital finance literacy initiatives through which the company has delivered value for the women who are mainly at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The two initiatives are “Smartphone, Smart Business”, under which over 500 Ghanaian micro entrepreneurs such as hairdressers, dress makers, traders, farmers and others in Accra and Kumasi were given smartphones at 75% subsidy, and the “Hey Sister! Show Me the Mobile Money”, which was targeted at educating beneficiaries on how to make effective use of digital finance and avoid being defrauded on those platforms.

Smartphone Smart Business 

Smartphone Smart Business
Smartphone Smart Business

Under the smartphone subsidy program, funded by VISA Incorporated, the micro entrepreneurs only paid 25% of the cost of the phones they received from SIA. The phones were pre-installed with digital financial literacy content, and the beneficiaries were also assisted to install various digital/social media apps through which they could advertise their wares and service and they connect with customers and potential customers.

SIA worked in collaboration with Jireh Microfinance in Accra and Kumasi Hive in Kumasi to reach the eligible micro entrepreneurs for the program.

“Today women in particular are able advertise their businesses and products on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and a couple of other ecommerce platforms. Some women dressmakers who benefited reported to be accessing new designs downloads from Pinterest via the Internet,” he said.

According to Wisdom Alorwuse, the result that support is a significant boost in the average monthly income of the beneficiaries from about $45 to $95, “and that is a very significant improvement that the women are really appreciative of.”

Hey Sister

Hey Sister
Hey Sister

He noted that the second initiative dubbed “Hey Sister! Show Me the Mobile Money” has even been more impact impactful because in comes in the form of free digital finance education in six (6) Ghanaian local dialects – Twi, Ga, Ewe, Hausa, Dagbani and Kasem.

The “Hey Sister” initiative started in Ghana, Uganda and Malawi, but the collective impacts across the three countries has promoted customization in other local languages and local partner uptake in Tanzania, and Kenya.

The material comes in the form of 25 dramatized 3 – 5minute-long audio episodes accessible for free by calling the IVR lines of MTN – 170 (option 5) and Vodafone – 321 (option 4).

“We put the audio lessons on call-in lines with mobile network operators so customers could call in for free at times most convenient to them. We also posted the content on our website, along with facilitator guides for partners to lead group discussions,” Wisdom Alorwuse added.

Apart from using the IVR channels on MTN and Vodafone, SIA also worked with local outreach partners in Ghana, who cut across financial service providers, agribusinesses, women advocacy groups, Agritech, NGOs and community advocacy groups. Some examples are Agritrade, Jireh Microfinance, Esoko, Send Ghana, Link Ghana, Afro Arab Microfinance, and many more.

Impact

He said 98% of the women who accessed the “Hey Sister” audio found it relevant to their lives because it boosted their confidence in conducting digital transactions via phone, adding that Link Ghana has, for instance, created mobile money account for at least 3,000 out of its 4,000 members, clearly indicating how “Hey Sister” has boosted the adoption of digital finance among the target groups.

Again, at People Microfinance, some women customers have shifted from cash to digital – adopting digital form of payment for their loans repayment and gained knowledge on avoidance of fraud and scams.

USAID Funding

Wisdom Alorwuse said “Hey Sister” was made possible through a $1 million funding support from USAID, which ended in 2021, but SIA has since loaded the episodes on its website www.siaedge.com and translated them further into French and Spanish for so that more people across the world can access which is relevant to their groups.

Meanwhile, in the various African countries, individuals can still call in to listen to any topic they choose depending on which network they are on.

He noted that the delivery of digital financial literacy through IVR promises to reach scale and data driven for decision making purposes

On that score, the SIA Africa Lead lauded the various service providers like MTN, Vodafone and several others through whose platforms and efforts “Hey Sister” has chalked success and continues to impact even more women across the continent and elsewhere.

“Currently, SIA has been committed to training trainers for various institutions across the continent on how to effectively rollout the “Hey Sister” among women at the bottom of the economic pyramid,” he said.

Rwanda

In Rwanda, Wisdom Alorwuse said he has made some very promising contacts with leading services providers and policy makers, which will potentially drive the “Hey Sister” project in Rwanda itself and across other parts of the continent.

Going forward, he said, the company will focus more on strategic partnerships at both the service provider, policy makers and even trader-groups level to rollout the program to benefit more people down the economic pyramid.

The Call

“I would like to invite industry stakeholders – mobile network operators, financial institutions, government agencies, donors and NGOs – to invest into smartphone subsidization initiatives to enhance mobile phone ownership and Internet usage for low-income countries,” Wisdom Alorwuse stated.

He also appealed to telcos and phone companies to reduce marketing of entry level smartphones with lower RAM and ROM capacities because SIA’s program has found that such phones get to freeze and malfunction very often, and therefore fail to deliver the needed value to the target market.

“Telcos should create strategic alliances with financial institutions to provide financing schemes for women in order to reduce smartphone usage gap as reported by GSMA in their recent report,” he recommended.

On that score, he also called on African governments to consider the reduction of taxes on smartphone importation so as to lower retail price of devices for final consumers, particularly those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Strategic Impact Advisors is a digital inclusion consulting firm that specializes in the provision of technical assistance, product development, program implementation and advise in the area of digital financial services (DFS), digital agriculture, women economic empowerment and financial inclusion in general. The company has presence in other countries around the world apart from Africa.

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