Call for Proposals GFRD Awards 2015

GFRD 2015 Awards calls for proposal to recognize best practices in the field of remittances and development. It provides an opportunity for stakeholders from public and private sectors, civil society, and the development community to engage and identify opportunities for collaboration, and also to disseminate the latest trends and best practices related to remittances and their potential for development. The award has two categories.  First, private sector award for best practice in remittances for development and second, project award for best practice in remittances for development. The organization/project will be eligible for the award if it has achieved one of these following criteria:

  • Improving accessibility of remittance transfers (in terms of distance, safety, and speed);
  • Reduced remittance transfer costs;
  • Improved safety and security of remittances transfers;
  • New business models and market entrants relating to remittances;
  • Innovative models of remittance transfers involving new technologies;
  • Improved competition in the remittance transfer market;
  • Financial inclusion: taylor-made financial services for remittance senders and/or receivers;
  • Channeling remittances to promote social, environmental, and economic development;
  • Investment mechanisms for diaspora or migrant families, mobilising capital;
  • Gender-informed remittances services;
  • Special consideration will be given to initiatives that: have successfully scaled up remittance-related initiatives and have involved collaboration between public, private, and civil society individuals/organizations.

Finalists will be awarded at the GFRD 2015 in Milan in June 2015. The last date of submitting the application is April 30, 2015.

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Symbid Launches the Funding Network(TM) for Start-Ups and Small Businesses

Symbid, one of the first investment crowdfunding platforms worldwide, today announced the launch of The Funding Network™. Based in the Netherlands, the birthplace of the world’s first stock market, Symbid has launched a go-to platform connecting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to all types of funding, traditional and alternative. The Funding Network™ represents the next phase in the evolution of the peer-to-peer model in the financial industry.

All over the world people are becoming better connected, creating cheaper, faster and easier access to products and services. Entire industries are being concentrated into single online destinations — termed ‘go-to’ platforms — disrupting as well as simplifying the way we live our lives. The Funding Network™ is the first comprehensive online platform for SME finance, providing entrepreneurs with direct access to equity and loan crowdfunding, bank loans, venture capital, angel investors and investment funds. Built around user-friendly investing, monitoring and data tools that enable everyone to track the performance of companies 24/7, The Funding Network™ bridges the information gap between crowdfunding and traditional investment methods through standardized data protocols.

“Our mission at Symbid is to simplify the way small businesses are funded through technology that enables a more transparent and efficient way of doing business. The launch of The Funding Network™ in the home of the world’s first stock market is a step towards a more democratic financial future for us all,” said Korstiaan Zandvliet, CEO and co-founder of Symbid Corp. “As an early mover in crowdfunding, we pushed ahead with paradigm-shifting technologies that help to level the financial playing field for investors and entrepreneurs. This is a logical evolution for a financial industry still grounded in a traditional, vertical, offline way of operating. The Funding Network™ will be the most efficient capital market for private companies.”

The Funding Network™ gives entrepreneurs access to all forms of finance, while offering (private and institutional) investors full transparency on the potential risks and returns of their portfolio. Every entrepreneur connecting to The Funding Network™ is guided towards the right type of funding with professional financial advice. Meanwhile, investors can personalize their deal flow according to key business criteria, pinpointing the investment opportunities that matter to them. This produces the most effective capital allocation service possible, underpinned by standardized XBRL data streamed from accountant reporting systems.

With over 40 funding partners already connected including banks, venture capitalists, angel investors, 30,000 private (crowdfunding) investors and affiliate platforms, the launch of The Funding Network™ on March 4 is just the beginning for Symbid. A signed partnership with financial advisory firm Credion means the expected total transaction volume of The Funding Network™ in 2015 is $800 million. “Symbid aims to revolutionize the financial industry in a way that enables more people to connect, fund and grow. We have but one message: let’s invest in each other,” said Korstiaan Zandvliet.

About Symbid
Founded in April 2011 as one of the first investment crowdfunding platforms worldwide, Symbid is The Funding Network™, where companies get funded and grow. As a leading online funding portal for small- and medium-sized enterprises, Symbid gives entrepreneurs direct access to traditional and alternative forms of finance, while offering investors full transparency on the potential risks and returns of their portfolio. Advanced investing, monitoring and data tools ensure companies connecting to The Funding Network™ are financed in the most efficient way possible. Built around cutting-edge technology and expert financial advice, The Funding Network™ by Symbid is the go-to platform for entrepreneurs in search of funding and investors in search of exciting opportunities. As of March 2015, Symbid ( has successfully funded 70 small businesses for a total capital sum of $7.5 million. With over 40 funding partners already connected — including banks, venture capital, angel investors and 30,000 private (crowdfunding) investors — the total transaction volume of The Funding Network™ in 2015 is estimated at $800 million. Symbid Corp. is a U.S. publicly listed company (OTCQB: SBID). For investor relations, please visit

Safe Harbor Statement
This release may include predictions, estimates or other information that might be considered “forward-looking statements” as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. While these forward-looking statements represent our current judgement on what the future holds, they are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which reflect our opinions only as of the date of this release. Please keep in mind that we are not obligating ourselves to revise or publicly release the results of any revision to these forward-looking statements in light of new information or future events. The predictions discussed in this release are based on the personal opinions of certain individuals and are supported by a consensus within the crowdfunding industry and alternative finance world generally. For a more complete discussion of these predictions and certain risk factors which may affect our future business operations, please review our most recent Form 10-K, particularly under the heading “Risk Factors.” PDF copies of these forms can be viewed and downloaded on the Symbid Corp. Investor Relations website at


Digital Financial Inclusion: Implications for Customers, Regulators, Supervisors, and Standard-Setting Bodies

With the prospect of reaching billions of new customers, banks and nonbanks have begun to offer digital financial services for financially excluded and underserved populations, building on the approaches that have been used for years to improve access channels for those already served by banks and other financial institutions. Innovative digital financial services involving the use of mobile phones have been launched in more than 80 countries (GSMA 2014).1 As a result of the significant advances in the accessibility and affordability provided by digital financial services, millions of poor customers are moving from exclusively cash-based transactions to formal financial services. The benefits of this development include economic growth and stability, both for the customers and for the economies where they and their families reside. However, the use of digital financial services by formerly excluded customers brings not only benefits but also risks, due in part to the characteristics of a typical poor customer (inexperienced with formal financial services and unfamiliar with consumer rights). Some of the risks are new while others, although well known, may take on different dimensions in the financial inclusion context. This Brief2 aims to provide national and global policy makers with a clear picture of the rapid development of digital financial services for the poor and the need for their attention and informed understanding. It proposes a concise definition of “digital financial inclusion” and summarizes its impact on financially excluded and underserved populations; outlines the new and shifting risks of digital financial inclusion models that are significant to regulators, supervisors, and standard-setting bodies (SSBs); and concludes with observations on digital financial inclusion issues on the policy-making horizon.

Read the brief >>

Status and Development of Islamic Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa

The Islamic finance industry has been growing rapidly in various regions, and its banking segment has become systemic in some countries, with implications for macroeconomic and financial stability. While not yet significant in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), several features make Islamic finance instruments relevant to the region, in particular the ability to foster SMEs and micro-credit activities. In a recent paper, we provide a survey on Islamic Finance in SSA where on-going activities include Islamic banking, sukuk issuances (to finance infrastructure projects), Takaful (insurance), and microfinance. Should they wish to develop the market, policy makers could introduce Islamic financing windows within the conventional system and facilitate sukuk issuance to tap foreign investors. The entrance of full-fledged Islamic banks would require addressing systemic issues and adapting crisis management and resolution frameworks.

The financial sector in SSA has been growing rapidly in the past two decades. New products have been introduced and financial institutions are playing an increasing role in financial intermediation, including cross-border financial intermediation.

However, Islamic finance remains small, although it has potential given the region’s demographic structure and potential for further financial deepening. As of end-2012, about 38 Islamic finance institutions-comprising commercial banks, investment banks, and takaful (insurance) operators-were operating in Africa. Out of this, 21 operated in North Africa, Mauritania and Sudan, and 17 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Botswana, Kenya, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Senegal and Tanzania have Islamic banking activities. There is also scope for development in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Ethiopia, as all but Zambia has relatively large Muslim populations-Zambia is interested in using Islamic finance instruments to fund investment in the mining sector. In Uganda, the central bank has started the process of amending its banking regulations to allow for the establishment of Islamic banks and three Islamic banks have applied for a license.

Islamic finance is still at a nascent stage of development in SSA. The share of Islamic banks is small, and Islamic capital markets are virtually non-existent (there were small Sukuk issuances in Gambia and Nigeria). At the same time, the demand for Islamic finance products is likely to increase in coming years. At present, about half of the region’s total population remains to be banked. Furthermore, the SSA Muslim population, currently at nearly 250 million people, is projected to reach 386 million in 2030 and financial activities are expected to rise as a share of GDP. Many countries are expected to introduce Islamic finance activities side-by-side conventional banking. Opportunities for the development of Islamic finance are expected to comprise retail products to small and medium-sized enterprises. The sub-continent’s growing middle class, combined with its young population is an opportunity for Islamic finance to expand its services. SSA’s large infrastructure needs will also provide an opportunity for Sukuk issuance to channel funds from the Middle-East, Malaysia, and Indonesia. For example, recent issuance of a Shari’ah-compliant bond by Osun state in Nigeria and South Africa could start a trend in favour of sukuk, especially if planned sukuk by Senegal.

Developing Islamic Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa

The development of Islamic Finance could increase the depth and breadth of intermediation, extending the reach of the system (e.g. extension of maturities and facilitation of hedging and risk diversification). At the same time, the much larger non-Muslim population could find Islamic financial instruments attractive in broadening the range of available options, particularly for SMEs and micro-credit. Moreover, financial deepening and inclusion could be further enhanced if new instruments are inspired from Islamic finance, but without necessarily being Shari’ah certified. The development of partial risk guarantees, as in Mauritius, could be seen as an example.

In addition, SSA countries could tap into growing Islamic financial markets to meet infrastructure financing needs. By opening doors to Islamic finance, SSA can seek to attract capital from Muslim countries whose savings rates are high and projected to grow. In particular, sukuk financing, which is expanding in other countries, could be a useful tool to finance infrastructure investments.

Lastly, Islamic financing can help develop small and medium enterprises and microfinance activities, given those African households and firms have less access to credit from conventional banks compared to other developing regions. Islamic banks can tap a segment of depositors that do not participate in interest-based banking. They can also promote SMEs’ access to credit through expanding acceptable collaterals by extending funds on a participatory basis in which collateral is either not necessary or includes intangible assets.

Through its different forms-windows, full-fledged banking, investment banking, and Insurance-Islamic finance activities ensure appropriate leverage and help limit speculation and moral hazard. It should be noted, however, that they are also subject to constraints and risks, most notably the difficulties and costs involved in supervising and monitoring and the reputational risk implicit in some products that are not properly certified as compliant with Islamic principles.

For countries that want to develop Islamic finance in their jurisdictions, a strategy could contemplate the following steps: launching a public awareness campaign, providing the needed infrastructure (i.e. amending as needed laws and accounting and prudential frameworks), building capacity at the central bank (especially on supervision), and considering the need to set up an appropriate liquidity management framework and introduce adequate monetary operations instruments.

This blogpost is based on the academic study “Islamic Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa: Status and Prospects”,

Prepared by: Enrique Gelbard, Mumtaz Hussain, Rodolfo Maino, Yibin Mu and Etienne B. Yehoue.


Greenfield microfinance – a business model for advancing financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa?

In recent years there has been a rapid increase in the presence and growth of greenfield microfinance institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Designed to expand access to financial services for the low-income market in underdeveloped economies, and often specifically targeting small scale entrepreneurs, the business model is backed by foreign-owned holding companies or networks that provide initial capital, expertise, common branding, and standard policies and operating procedures.

It first entered the African market about fifteen years ago, when the local microfinance industry was in its infancy. Today there are more than 30 greenfield MFIs on the continent, including for example AccessBank, Advans, FINCA and MicroCred in countries such as Cameroon, Democratic republic of Congo, Madagascar and Tanzania.

Has the greenfield business model worked? In Benchmarking the Financial Performance, Growth, and Outreach of Greenfield Microfinance Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, researchers from IFC and the World Bank, in collaboration with The MasterCard Foundation, used regressions to benchmark African greenfields relative to other microfinance providers and found that greenfields grew faster in terms of deposits and lending, improved their profitability to levels comparable to the top local microfinance institutions, and substantially increased their lending to women.

The analysis compares four types of financial institutions: formal greenfields (backed by European-based consultancy firms), organic greenfields (initially often donor-funded), local commercial microfinance banks (microbanks), and others, a category that includes credit unions, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations, other non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), and rural banks. The comparison is based on best available indicators that proxy for growth, financial performance and outreach to typically underserved market segments for a set of twenty-six greenfield microfinance institutions that entered Africa from 2005.

Outreach: To determine outreach, the researchers looked at average loan size divided by GNI per capita as well as the share of lending to women, as poorer clients typically absorb credit in smaller amounts and women are typically less economically empowered than men.  The results generally show that organic greenfields start out making smaller loans than all other MFIs except the ‘other’ category, but that loan sizes then grow over time. Conversely, formal greenfields began by making loans of similar size to microbanks, though average loan size then declined over time. Both types of greenfields showed a positive association between capital costs and the share of lending to women, suggesting that the build-up of retail branching led to deeper outreach to female clients.

Financial performance: The regressions generally show a strong tendency for weaker initial financial performance by greenfields than other MFIs, but sustained improvement over time, even reaching levels comparable to established microbanks by the end of the period of study. Looking at non-performing loans (NPLs), greenfields have maintained lower shares of at-risk loans than other MFIs since 2005. There is however, a correlation between deeper outreach and higher non-performing loans for greenfields over time, which ostensibly reflects the risks of issuing smaller loans – though both types of greenfields began from very low NPL levels like most new market entrants, so some increase was possibly inevitable.

Growth: All MFIs increased their loan portfolios over time, but formal greenfields expanded their loan portfolios at a rate faster than all other MFIs. Greenfields that made heavy capital costs investments also tended to have larger loan portfolios, both relative to other MFIs and to other greenfields. The analysis found a tight association between capital costs and total deposits for organic greenfields, and that yearly increases in total deposits were significantly larger for formal greenfields than all other MFIs. The patterns are consistent with the notion that greenfields were effective in establishing a strong retail presence within a short period of time, with capital investments paying off in terms of growth in loan portfolios and deposits.

Overall, the study shows that at this point, the greenfield model, and particularly the formal greenfield model, has been an effective and profitable means of broadening financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa within a short time period. As many of these greenfields now explore the opportunities offered by alternative delivery channels, it will be exciting to see how much further they can serve to expand financial inclusion in Africa, not least for the continent’s many small-scale businesses.


Access to Financial Services: Necessary but not Sufficient for Financial Inclusion

Until recently, the drive towards financial inclusion was commonly framed in terms of access. Yet as the explosion of digital financial services and simplified account opening procedures have begun to make financial services accessible to the poor, it has become apparent that access is only part of the equation. Despite these innovations, account ownership and usage has remained stubbornly low in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. As access expands, new research suggests that similar attention should be paid to improving the quality and affordability of financial services, as well as building trust in financial institutions, if we hope to achieve broader success in banking the poor.

In 2010, a group of researchers worked with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to study the low level of financial inclusion near a set of market centers in rural Kenya. In these early days of Kenya’s digital financial revolution, formal savings rates were low. Despite having at least one formal banking option within walking distance, just 20 percent of households had a savings account. Instead, most households relied on informal savings groups and livestock to store their wealth. Formal lending options also went largely unused.

So why were households not taking advantage of the formal banking options available to them? One possible explanation was a lack of knowledge about the services themselves. While 60 percent of respondents knew of the bank branches in the area, almost no one knew basic details about the available accounts, such as the fee schedule. In this setting, the researchers wanted to learn what happens when people understand their options and account set-up costs are removed. To answer this question, the researchers conducted a randomized evaluation of low-cost savings and credit product offers for unbanked households.

Initially, trained IPA staff visited just over half of the unbanked households in the area. They informed them about the local banking options and gave them a voucher that effectively waived the account opening fee and minimum balance for a savings account.

The results were good: 63 percent of people opened an account. But not great: only 18 percent used the account at least twice over the next 12 months. It seems the design of the products and the quality of the services did not meet the needs of potential clients. When the researchers asked recipients why they chose not to use their account, responses tended towards three answers: fear of embezzlement, poor service, and withdrawal fees that made small transactions too expensive.

The researchers found similar results when they informed respondents about credit options and lowered the eligibility requirements for a small, collateralized loan. After six months, only three percent of people had applied for a loan. These numbers appear to be particularly low, since interest rates on the loans were considerably lower than the estimated profit that households could have made with the extra funds. Again the design of the loan did not meet the needs of the study participants, who cited fear of losing their collateral as a major reason for not taking a loan.

Clearly, access to financial services is just one piece to the financial inclusion puzzle. As the reach of formal financial services spread, the quality of services and trust in banking institutions must also improve to achieve broader success. At the same time, more rigorous research is needed to identify effective ways to improve product design to meet the needs of both financial service providers and the poor.

This blogpost is based on the academic study “Challenges in Banking the Rural Poor: Evidence from Kenya’s Western Province

About the Study Authors:

  • Pascaline Dupas is an Associate Professor of Economics at Stanford University;
  • Sarah Green is a Senior Program Officer and Researcher at the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD and previously worked as a Research Manager at Innovations for Poverty Action;
  • Anthony Keats is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Wesleyan University; and
  • Jonathan Robinson is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

This blogpost was written by Greg Dobbels, Initiative Associate with IPA’s Global Financial Inclusion Initiative, and approved by the study authors. Learn about Innovations for Poverty Action’s Global Financial Inclusion Initiative here.



Agri-Services says around 20,000 farmers will benefit from its electronic payment system this year.

Last October, NWK Agri-Services implemented an electronic-payment system in partnership with various financial service providers, which uses mobile money to pay farmers and eases communication with them.

The payment system also reduces the risk of farmers handling cash and delays in paying them. NWK Agri-Services corporate relations and marketing manager, Lauren Watson, stated that 20,000 farmers would this year benefit from the payment system, with the number expected to increase year-on-year.

“We expect to grow this number by 30 per cent per year and hope to have all our farmers on the platform by 2018. Each farmer will receive a phone from NWK and be signed up to MTN mobile money,” Watson stated in response to a press query.

She stated that since the company’s mechanisation scheme was rolled out in selected parts of the country last year, farmers had benefited through equipment in improving land mass and volumes.

“Mechanised farmers are also able to provide land preparation services to other small-scale farmers, effectively increasing the number of farmers benefitting from our programme. NWK plans to roll out 200 mechanisation packages each year. This, however, depends highly on the repayments of loans from beneficiaries the previous year,” stated Watson.

NWK provides an all-round service to farmers with its agricultural division supplying back-up support in training or advice; the retail division providing easy access to spares and inputs, together with their commodities division that provides a guaranteed market for the farmer’s produce.


Document link:

Stories from the field highlight innovations in financial inclusion

As part of the 38th session of IFAD’s Governing Council earlier last week (week 16-20 February 2015), John McIntire, IFAD Associate Vice-President, Programme Management Department, moderated a panel discussion about financial inclusion with six IFAD experts. The panel gave Member States an opportunity to learn more about how inclusive financing affects the lives of rural people – empowering them to build their resilience, increase their asset base and transform their communities.

Hubert Boirard, Country Programme Manager for Bangladesh and Pakistan, offered a broad definition for financial inclusion: namely, access for those who are currently excluded. More than 2.5 billion working adults – more than half of the working adult population – are excluded from any form of financial services, he said. Without access to services like credit or savings, even simple investments (and subsequent growth) become difficult. Some rural people have no option but to accept the high usury rates charged by loan sharks.

Offering basic financial services can empower rural people to reach the microeconomic achievements outlined in the goals of IFAD-supported programmes and projects. For example, short-term loans with low interest rates have helped increase food security. Boirard shared the fact that in Bangladesh, these loans helped farmers achieve a 40 per cent to 63 per cent increase in revenue and shorten the hungry season by one month. He also noted that investing in smallholder producers can lead to greater production and, consequently, national economic growth.

Likewise, Robson Mutandi, IFAD Representative and Country Director for the IFAD Country Office in Ethiopia, described the benefits of savings and credit cooperatives. As access to loans creates opportunities for entrepreneurship and growth, he explained, fewer workers need to sell their labour or engage in petty trade. Rather, they can invest in industry, like one farmer who was able to begin raising livestock. This farmer needed a loan to buy her first goat, but the profits and further investments she made have enabled her to now own five cows.

In a similar vein,  Ndaya Belchikta, Country Programme Manager for Sierra Leone, described how loans helped one man in that country expand his business selling rechargeable phone cards. He now owns both a generator and a storefront and has hired two workers.

These community banks tend to be more beneficial to rural communities than commercial banks, as they also offer services to non-members. However, Abdelkarim Sma, Regional Economist for IFAD’s Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, advocated for using both types of banks. In Sudan, he said, he had worked with grassroots financial organizations as well as commercial banking in rural areas. Unlike community banks, commercial banks can help increase the visibility of rural areas and their needs.

Pedro De Vasconcelos, Programme Coordinator of the Financing Facility for Remittances, added another layer to the conversation: remittances. Although remittances sent back to their home country by migrants can be as high as a third of its GDP, access to remittance services in rural areas is sometimes scarce, he said. The opportunity cost of a journey to the nearest remittance services facility can be prohibitively high.

Throughout the panel, McIntire stressed that financial inclusion represents an investment in people. He and Michael Hamp, Lead Technical Specialist, Programme Management Department, pointed out that financial inclusion supports diversification of livelihoods and fosters resilience and empowerment, creating opportunities for rural people to improve their communities. New mobile technologies and digital infrastructure can present alternative methods of financial inclusion and inspire new ideas. With financial inclusion still unavailable to 2.5 billion adults, the opportunities and possibilities are virtually endless.

Written by Adam Vincent


Award Leadership series

CGIAR is pleased to announce AWARD leadership series for 2015:

  1. AWARD Women’s Leadership and Management Course, June 7-13, 2015, Hosted by ICRISAT in India
  2. AWARD Enhancing Negotiation Skills for Women Course, September 7-11, 2015, Kenya
  3. AWARD Advanced Women’s Leadership and Management Course, October 25-31, 2015, Kenya

Please find attached; the detailed announcements for the respective courses.

AWARD Advanced Women’s Leadership and Management Course – October Kenya

AWARD Women’s Leadership and Management Course – June in India

AWARD Negotiation Skills for Women Course – September Kenya

To register for any of the courses, contact and

Promoting Competition in Mobile Payments: The Role of USSD

The immediate gains for financial inclusion are clear. At the same time, this relatively new role for MNOs can generate competition concerns for country regulators. This is because MNOs compete with banks and other MFS providers (third parties) in the provision of mobile payments, but MNOs also own key communications infrastructure required to provide mobile payments.

Unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), a communications service controlled by MNOs, is believed to be a critical piece of infrastructure used to provide MFS on nearly any phone, at low cost, and without requiring access to the user’s SIM card. USSD enables customers to send instructions to the MFS provider along with their personal identification number (PIN) for authentication, while enabling the MFS provider to send responses to clients and confirm transactions.

This Brief outlines why USSD is important for mobile payments and highlights the main types of complaints arising as a result of restricted USSD access for MFS providers. It then explores regulatory issues, including when regulatory intervention may be required, which regulator might be best placed to intervene, and what type of regulation is most appropriate