Nigeria and four Sub-Saharan Africa nations will benefit from a $4.4 million partnership by the Centre for Financial Inclusion (CFI) at Accion and MasterCard Foundation to advance financial inclusion and tackle the challenges facing consumer finance in the region.
The partnership, which will last for three years, marks a shift in strategy for its Smart Campaign, CFI’s financial consumer protection unit, as well as a deepening of its footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the partner organisations.
The Smart Campaign works globally to create an environment in which financial services are delivered safely and responsibly to low-income clients.
While the Smart Campaign will continue to be a global effort, this partnership will focus work in five Sub-Saharan African countries: Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda, according to CFI.
CFI says since its inception in 2009, the Smart Campaign has worked to infuse client protection into the DNA of the financial inclusion industry, certifying over 68 financial institutions serving 35 million clients worldwide.
To tackle client protection issues emerging from new technologies and also elevate the voice of the clients they serve and to effect change at the national level, the CFI says with support from MasterCard Foundation, the Smart Campaign will now convene a broader range of players in the financial services field, including regulators, industry associations and financial technology firms.
Isabelle Barres, Director of the Smart Campaign comments on the aim of the partnership: “It’s important to certify the practices of individual financial institutions, but we will not create wholesale, sustainable change until we galvanize the support all of the partners involved in serving low-income people, including regulators and new, technology-based service providers. We must also make a concerted effort to champion the client’s perspective.”
In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, client protection is urgently needed and sorely lacking, CFI says.
Predatory providers, abusive practices, weak regulations and inappropriate products can create lasting and sometimes devastating harm, CFI believes noting that at the same time, digital financial services are sweeping the continent, raising brand new client protection issues.
“With more than 45 million people in these five countries using financial services – often for the first time – the imperative to fully and sustainably protect clients is clear. With generous support from The MasterCard Foundation, the Smart Campaign can help ensure more people are offered high quality financial services,” Barres adds.
The Smart Campaign’s work aligns directly with MasterCard Foundation’s focus on responsible, client-centric financial services, according to Barres.
Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion and Youth Livelihoods at the Foundation also comments saying: “Our approach is to build and leverage partnerships across the financial inclusion sector to ensure clients’ needs are met responsibly.
“The Smart Campaign’s ability to reach out directly to clients to build awareness of their rights and understand their feedback is at the very heart of this partnership. The Smart Campaign will carry out activities designed to raise clients’ voices and inform them about their rights and responsibilities as consumers.”