Lazika Capital, partner of the Foundation, supports Georgian entrepreneurs

Lazika Capital is a microfinance institution created in 2000 by Oxfam Great Britain in Georgia. Its mission is to facilitate access to financial services for low and middle income entrepreneurs.
Lazika Capital is among the leaders in the Georgian microfinance sector and has nearly 14,000 clients. The agricultural sector represents 52% of its portfolio.

In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, Lazika Capital provided significant benefits to its clients directly affected by the health and economic crisis. During this period, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, alongside other lenders, supported Lazika Capital to limit a decline in its liquidity and ensure that the institution could continue to finance its clients. Although the health situation has improved in 2021, the institution remains actively involved in various government programmes to reduce the negative impact of the pandemic and accelerate economic recovery.

Priority to digitalisation

Lazika Capital was the first microfinance institution in Georgia to be allowed, by the National Bank, to offer remote services.

To support entrepreneurs, especially in the agricultural sector, Lazika Capital offers its clients technological improvements to make their products and services more diversified and flexible.
Indeed, the institution uses digital tablets for better application management in the field. This digital offering was particularly useful during the lockdown period, as clients could apply for loans, be informed of their approval and make repayments without visiting a branch.

The positive results achieved in 2020 prove that Lazika Capital is a resilient institution, able to face challenges while continuing to be a successful, reliable and responsible partner in the microfinance sector. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, on its side, pursues its support to the institution with which it has been working since 2017, in order to continue supporting Georgian entrepreneurship, despite the challenges in this uncertain period.

More information on Lazika here.

Solidarity Bankers: six missions to be filled with the Foundation’s partners

© Godong / Philippe Lissac – Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole

Three online and three field Solidarity Bankers’ missions are currently available on behalf of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme launched by the Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018 and aimed at all Crédit Agricole Group employees. The programme has a twofold objective: on the one hand, support microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation with technical assistance, and on the other hand, enhance the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with high social impact.

The missions can take place during the Solidarity Banker’s working time and/or during holidays (volunteering).

Currently, six missions are available, online or in the field:

ONLINE MISSIONS

The experts selected for the online missions will work remotely and will devote the equivalent of one day per week, for 15 weeks, to the mission.

The three online missions are to be filled as soon as possible.

  • “Digital strategy” mission for OXUS (Kyrgyzstan)

OXUS Kyrgyzstan (OKG) is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to the working poor and under-banked in Kyrgyzstan. The institution serves 8,000 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of EUR 6.4 million.

A Solidarity Banker mission is planned from July 2021 to support OKG in the evaluation of its digitalisation processes and in the construction of a new digital strategy. The expert sought is a Crédit Agricole employee with significant experience in IT project management. Fluency in English is essential.

The mission description is available here.

  • “Financial Management” mission in favour of FATEN (Palestine)

FATEN is a microfinance institution in Palestine. The institution has more than 26,000 clients and manages a portfolio of EUR 108 million.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. The Solidarity Banker must be fluent in English and have knowledge of international financial reporting standards and in particular of the latest changes to IFRS 16 and IFRS 9. Fluency or very good knowledge of Arabic is a plus. At a minimum, fluency in English will be required.

The mission description is available here.

  • « Digital Strategy » mission for Smart Credit (Moldova)

Smart Credit is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to socially disadvantaged people and small entrepreneurs in Moldova. The institution has more than 3,000 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of 4.4 million euros.

The Solidarity Banker will be in charge of helping to build the digital strategy of Smart Crédit. The expert is an employee of the Crédit Agricole Group who is fluent in English and has experience in IT project management.

The mission description is available here.

FIELD MISSIONS

The three field missions are to be filled as soon as possible, depending on the current health situation.

  • “Logistical support/purchasing” mission in favour of Oshun (Senegal)

Oshun is a social enterprise that offers inclusive solutions, especially in the form of solar-powered water kiosks, allowing the most vulnerable populations access to clean water. Oshun Senegal is completing a process of administrative and HR structuring and wishes to strengthen its support functions, primarily logistics and purchasing.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support Oshun in setting up procedures to simplify and secure logistics, procurement and supply management, and strengthen the staff involved. The mission will last 10 days, first remotely from France and then on the ground in Senegal if health conditions allow. The Solidarity Banker must have solid experience in logistics and procurement management and, ideally, experience in training and coaching in the field of procurement.

The mission description is available here.

  • « LBC-FT » mission for SEF (South Africa)

SEF is a microfinance institution that provides loans through a network of 98 branches in South Africa. The institution has 225,317 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of more than EUR 45 million.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert is responsible for supporting the Quality and Compliance Department and the Training Department in developing relevant training materials on AML/CFT issues for employees. The Solidarity Banker must have at least 5 years of experience in compliance.  The mission will last two weeks, including 10 days in the field.

The mission description is available here.

  • « Marketing » mission for Lazika Capital (Georgia)

Lazika Capital is a Tier 2 microfinance institution in Georgia. The organisation operates through 18 branches in western Georgia.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will be responsible for evaluating the organisation’s marketing strategy and actions, as well as developing a marketing plan for mid-2021/2020. The Solidarity Banker must have a solid experience in marketing. A good mastery of English is required. The mission will last 20 days, including 10 days in the field.

The mission statement is available here.

How to apply?

To discover the details of the missions:

  1. Go to the CA Solidaires website: tab “Get involved” then “Solidarity leave“.
  2. Click on the offer of your choice. You will find all the necessary information for your application.

For more information, you can contact: cecile.delhomme@credit-agricole-sa.fr

Microinvest supports investments in the modernisation of Moldovan agriculture

Interview with Dumitru Svinarenco, Chief Executive Officer of Microinvest (Republic of Moldova) about investments in Moldovan agriculture in main facilities of Agri loans.

1. Could you present Microinvest in a few words?

Microinvest is a non-bank credit organization with mixed capital. We managed to prove our major role in the Moldovan financial market by supporting local businesses, agriculture and individuals and directly contributing to the development of the country’s economy.

According to the size of the portfolio, we rank 6th among the banking system, while maintaining the leading position on non-bank credit market in the country. We are different from other financial companies thanks to the customized solutions and important benefits in the lending process that we offer to each client, including agricultural entrepreneurs. We are the only NBFI in Moldova to hold the international quality certificate – SMART, which proves that we are a responsible and trustworthy lender.

2. Agriculture is one of the basic pillars for the Moldovan economy and it is also a priority sector for Microinvest. How did the 2020 drought and Covid-19 affect your clients and your organization?

Every year, the agricultural sector is developing and modernizing thanks to successful entrepreneurs and responsible investments. 30% of our overall LP and more than 40% of our business LP is dedicated to the agri field, to the support of agricultural businesses and farms, which need financial investments for quality agriculture.

The year 2020 had a major impact on the Moldovan agricultural segment, which were directly confronted with the Covid-19 crisis, but also with the unprecedented drought, which led to a season with minimal harvests.

3. What has been your response to support the agricultural sector to cope with these crises?

Microinvest was among the first organizations to cancel the penalties at the beginning of the pandemic, both for business owners and individuals. Throughout this period, our experts have assessed the situation of each entrepreneur. We have been open to come up with solutions for restructuring and extending the terms of loans, without charging fees.

As the pandemic had just started, we continued to lend to farmers so that they could begin the agricultural season as planned. Despite the difficulties, some of our clients have managed to develop successful households and gather great results from the investments made.

4. Microinvest is funded by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation (GCAF) since 2020. How has the Foundation supported your organization during this pandemic?

Microinvest started the interactions with GCAF in 2019 and signed the first loan agreement in May 2020, at the peak of the highest lockdown restrictions imposed by most countries. This first loan from GCAF was an impulse for other lenders, proving that even new lenders believed in our financial stability and in our adequate reaction to crisis. The second loan has already been disbursed in March 2021.
The Foundation maintained transparent communication with us, listened to our needs and supported the search for suitable solutions. We consider GCAF as a reliable partner, therefore we plan to develop and strengthen our cooperation in the future.

5. Which will be your strategic priorities for the years to come? What place have you given to digitalization?

Digitization occupies a special place in our communication and development strategy. We follow a balanced formula: combining digital automation with personal discussions with customers, visits and direct interactions. Entrepreneurs appreciate the expertise and the value of an individual approach which lead to tailer-made financial solutions. At the same time, we tend to go for the massive digitization of retail lines, simplifying the lending process, and thus saving our customer time.

We are confident that agriculture in Moldova is one of the strategic segments for our country. We support individuals and legal entities in their plans for growth and business transformation. In 2021, we came up with a special offer for business clients – unsecured credits up to MDL 1,700,000, so that they can successfully achieve their goals. Both we and the farmers have high expectations for the new agricultural season. A good year will give additional strength to the agricultural sector, but also additional desire to invest in the modernization of agricultural practices, by purchasing new high-performance equipment.

More information on Microinvest.

Persistent credit risk : a threat to the solvency of microfinance institutions ?

ADA, Inpulse and the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation joined forces in 2020 to monitor and analyse the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their partner microfinance institutions around the world. This monitoring was carried out periodically throughout 2020 in order to gain a better vision of the development of the crisis at the international level. We are extending this work this year on a quarterly basis. The conclusions set out in this article follow the first quarter of 2021. With this regular analysis, we hope to contribute, at our level, to the charting of strategies and solutions adapted to the needs of our partners, as well as to the dissemination and exchange of information by and between the different stakeholders in the sector.

In a nutshell

The results presented in the following pages come from the sixth survey (1) of the joint ADA, Inpulse and Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation series. The responses from our partner microfinance institutions were collected in the second half of April 2021. The 87 institutions that responded are located in 47 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA-25%), Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA-29%), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-25%), South and Southeast Asia (SSEA-13%) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA-8%) (2).

Whereas the general improvement in the local contexts relating to COVID-19 enables microfinance institutions to conduct their activities better, our latest survey shows that MFIs nevertheless had a lot of difficulties in reaching their development goals in the first quarter of 2021. The reasons cited have mainly to do with the difficulties encountered by the customers of the MFIs. Such customers are reluctant to commit to new loans, and if they do, it is for smaller amounts than in the past. At the same time, their risk profile has deteriorated due to the crisis and the MFIs will find it more difficult to finance them.

This general trend of increasing risk has led to a decline in the quality of the portfolio of the MFIs. In 2020, it has ultimately been reflected in the profit and loss accounts of institutions with an increase in provisioning expenses. This is likely to be the case again this year, with additional reserves but also loan write-offs.

In fact, the operations of the MFIs have been reduced or slowed down, generally with a decrease in the level of their equity capital. In point of fact, one in two MFIs, irrespective of size, indicates a need for capital in 2021. Two trends emerge: the MFIs are counting on their current shareholders to cover the losses linked to the crisis. Conversely, international investors are expected to support their development as of this year. The answers provided by our partners therefore underscore the need for recapitalization this year, which will involve all the players in the sector.

1. Disbursement levels are still low notwithstanding the reduction in constraints

Whereas we have seen a gradual but definite reduction in operational constraints for MFIs since the summer of 2020, this phenomenon continues in the first quarter of 2021. 50% of MFIs in all indicate that the measures in place in their countries are less constraining in April compared to the end of 2020. This is particularly pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa (64% of respondents in the region) and Latin America and the Caribbean (59%). This is to a lesser extent true for MFIs in Europe and Central Asia, where the situation is either improving or stable. Finally, the situation is opposite in South and South-East Asia, with 45% of respondents in the region reporting a more difficult context, with the Cambodian and Burmese situations weighing on results.

Almost half of the respondents overall report that they no longer face any operational constraints in conducting their activities. This is reflected in the resumption of activity by the MFIs: 52% of those in sub-Saharan Africa can work as before the crisis. The vast majority of MFIs in Latin America are gradually resuming their activities since the first difficulties encountered. The situation in Europe and Central Asia is again divided between gradual or almost complete recovery. Conversely, the deteriorated context for MFIs in the SSEA region is reflected in activities that are either still constrained or are again affected by new measures to contain the epidemic.

Despite these continued positive signals on the level of activity of our partners, the expected level of loan disbursement for the quarter is apparently still difficult to achieve. For example, 55% of respondents report that they did not meet their loan disbursement targets in the first quarter of 2021. Only 10% of respondents exceeded their expectations, while 35% managed to meet their targets. The responses do not appear to pertain solely to business recovery: for example, 80% of MFIs in Sub-Saharan Africa did not meet their disbursement targets in the first quarter, while half report a return to near pre-crisis levels of activity.

When the MFIs did not meet their growth targets at the beginning of the year, three reasons stand out to explain this phenomenon. Firstly, the fact that customers are still reluctant to take out new loans (58% of this group), especially in a still rather uncertain context. Secondly, this is explained by the deteriorating risk profile of customers (50%), who are no longer eligible for loans or are eligible for smaller amounts (38%).

The latter two arguments are also mentioned by MFIs that have reached their targets without exceeding them. Nevertheless, this dynamic is partly offset by the fact that institutions have adjusted to the crisis and have put in place products adapted (digital, targeted sectors, etc.) to the current contexts in order to meet demand (47%).

Finally, the trend is quite different for MFIs that have exceeded their disbursement targets: the main factor is the strong demand received (78%), while the adjustment of the offer (33%) and the increase in the amounts requested (22%) support this trend.

2. A persistent high credit risk continues to have a significant impact on institutions’ profitability

In parallel to these loan disbursement issues, credit risk remains the major challenge for 64% of our partner MFIs, as we have noted since the beginning of our survey series. While late repayments by customers may still be the result of ongoing moratoria (20% of respondents, particularly in South and Southeast Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean), the majority of moratoria exits have resulted in a shift from the “moratorium” portfolio to the “at risk” portfolio, either as unpaid loans or as restructured loans. In total, 61% of the respondents indicate that fewer than 90% of their customers are repaying their loans, and 25% are concerned by repayment rates below 70%.

Another major difficulty is the decline in profitability of MFIs since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. At the end of Q1 2021, 55% of our partners raise this point. More specifically, we find that a share of the respondents managed to maintain some profitability in 2020, thanks to certain measures (33% – shown in green in the graph below). We then find a group of institutions (49% – shown in orange) for which an impact on profitability has been felt, but without endangering the institution. Finally, a last group stands out (18% – shown in red), in a less favourable position since the losses incurred in 2020 have direct consequences on the institutions’ own funds. For some of these institutions, this even implies that the company’s capital falls below the minimum levels required by the regulator or financiers.

 

The provisioning of the portfolio at risk turns out to be the main factor impacting on profitability in fact (61%). For some institutions (26%), this may moreover have led to a breach of contract with their funders. At the same time, there are still few massive loan write-offs, as only 13% of respondents have already resorted to debt cancellation to a greater extent than in previous years.

The impact of credit risk on the profitability of the MFIs is nonetheless expected to continue in the coming months. Loan write-offs in high proportions, above the usual standards, should concern 25% of our partners surveyed. At the same time, 24% expect that the provisioning of the PAR, notably through the exit of the moratorium, will continue to have a strong impact on their financial results. Finally, it should be noted that the ageing of the current portfolio at risk could also lead to additional provisioning expenses.

3. Strained equity capital leads to a search for investors

The decline in profitability, which could consequently continue in the near future without any improvement in credit risk, must be analysed for the short and long term. In the short term, controlling the portfolio at risk is a major challenge to avoid a (further) deterioration of profitability. This then has a direct impact on the operations of the MFIs. According to our partners, this observation has led the majority of the MFIs to revise their growth projections downwards (55%) for the coming years. It is also apparent that risk management involves paying particular attention to the type of activity of clients (31% have suspended disbursements to certain sectors – often tourism, international trade, etc.) and to eligibility criteria (29%). This increased caution reflects the current emphasis on risk management.

The other angle of reflection for the longer-term is the solvency of microfinance institutions in the face of declining revenues or losses. A majority of institutions today (61%) have not taken any action regarding their capital since the beginning of the crisis. Where this has been the case, existing shareholders have provided support to the MFIs, while subordinated debt (Tier 2 equity capital) has also been put in place, to a lesser extent.

A very high proportion of these institutions (48%) nonetheless report an equity requirement in 2021. This sizeable proportion shows the extent of support needed within the sector to ensure its development. There is no real archetype of MFI that emphasizes this expectation of capital support in 2021: regardless of the size of the MFI, about half of each Tier category expresses capital needs.

To meet these capital expectations, The types of shareholders that microfinance institutions wish to turn to in order to meet these capital expectations depend on the reason why this support is needed. For example, for institutions that mention a need for equity support in 2021, we find that when an MFI needs help to cover losses, it overwhelmingly turns to its existing shareholders (83% of cases, 10/12). Conversely, when MFIs are looking for support to continue to grow, they will more often turn to international investors (56% of cases, 14/25), beyond the potential contribution of existing shareholders. Finally, it is worth noting that subordinated debt may be favoured over capital injection, as this option is mentioned by 5 institutions.

 

All of our partners’ responses therefore suggest that the impact of the crisis, through credit risk, logically creates equity needs for a large proportion of entities, as they face either financial losses or a limitation in their ability to recover. While 41% of respondents say they will focus on improving the quality of their portfolio this year, our partners remind us of the essential role that international and existing investors will have to play in maintaining a satisfactory level of capitalisation that is conducive to their development.

_________________________________________________________________

(1) The results of the first five surveys are posted on //www.gca-foundation.org/observatoire-covid-19/, //www.ada-microfinance.org/fr/crise-du-covid-19/ and //www.inpulse.coop/news-and-media/
(2) Number of responding IMFs per region: EECA 22; SSA 25; LAC 22; SSEA 11; MENA: 7.
(3) Tier 1 means that the MFI manages a portfolio of over $50 million. Tier 2 applies to portfolios of $5 to $50 million, and Tier 3 concerns portfolios of less than $5 million.

Cross views: 2020, a year marked by the Covid-19 crisis

Jean-Marie Sander, Chairman of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation until March 2021 and
Raphaël Appert, Chairman, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, as of March 2021 and Vice-Chairman of Crédit Agricole SA and
Fédération Nationale du Crédit Agricole [National Federation of Crédit Agricole]

Just over 30 years ago, Michel Serres shared with us the need for a «Natural Contract» similar to the «Social Contract» which called for a reconciliation between man, nature and the living. 2020 was a terrible year for fragile economies.

The sound health of the Foundation, which has adapted to the economic effects of this crisis throughout the year, is not a mirror image of the dramas that have played out and are still playing out in the territories of our partners, where social shock absorbers are almost non-existent. Faced with the pandemic and its impact on daily life, family solidarity was often the rare relief very low-income populations could rely on.

Although its anthropocentric origin has yet to be demonstrated, this health crisis beckons us to become aware that we are part of nature, reminds us of our humility in the face of the natural order, and entrusts us with the task of not only developing but also of maintaining humanity.

The economic effects of the pandemic have affected the whole world but more particularly vulnerable populations: according to World Bank figures, 150 million people could be pushed rapidly into extreme poverty. For our part, we will avoid complacency about a probable ability to regain a semblance of economic growth, which we all know will not reach the most fragile populations quickly and evenly.

In this economic recovery, the Foundation will mobilise all its efforts in 2021, as there is still much to be done to try and change the mechanism that creates inequalities in the face of tragedy. We shall to that end have to rely on our professionalism, our determination and the values that guide our daily action.

It was with this ambition that we created the Foundation with Professor Yunus in 2008. It is still with this same ambition that we will continue to commit ourselves in the months to come.

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation signs the Climate Manifesto

Following the official launch of the French Coalition of Foundations for the Climate on November 18, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation signed, alongside 80 other organisations, the Manifesto of the new French Coalition of Foundations for the Climate (CFFC).

Launched by the Centre Français des Fondations and its partners, the Climate Coalition brings together foundations and endowment funds with a common goal:  act together in the fight against climate change. The Coalition will promote the good practices of signatories, produce work on engagement of the philanthropic sector and mobilise human and financial resources to support initiatives to address the climate crisis.

The Foundation and its action in favour of the resilience of rural economies

Through funding to microfinance institutions and investments in enterprises located in rural areas, with a strong social and environmental impact, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is positioning itself as an actor that promotes the resilience of rural economies in the face of climate change.

With a portfolio of € 87 million as of March 2021, the Foundation mainly supports organisations that contribute to rural development in Africa, Asia and Europe. Thus, out of the 7.3 million beneficiaries of funded microfinance institutions, 85% live in rural areas. In addition, the Foundation supports, through technical assistance, enterprises that promote more sustainable agricultural practices.

With the signing of the Manifesto but also the membership of the French Centre for Funds and Foundations (CFF), the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation reaffirms the inclusion of the climate issue in its practices and strategy, and calls for other actors of the inclusive finance sector to commit to this global issue.

 

 

Online Solidarity Bankers missions to be filled

Three online Solidarity Bankers missions are currently to be filled. Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A., open to all Crédit Agricole Group employees. The objective is twofold: on the one hand, to provide technical assistance to microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation, and on the other hand, to value the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with strong social impact.

The missions can be conducted during the working time of the Solidarity Banker (sponsorship by the employer of the Solidarity Banker) AND / OR during the holidays (volunteering). For the 3 missions below, the Solidarity Bankers will devote a total of 15 working days to the mission. Each selected expert will work remotely and devote the equivalent of one day per week, for 15 weeks, to the mission.

“Digital Strategy” missions in favour of OXUS (Kyrgyzstan)

OXUS Kyrgyzstan (OKG) is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to working poor and underbanked people in Kyrgyzstan. The institution serves 8,000 active borrowers (48% of whom are women and 62% live in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €6.4 million. The average outstanding loan is €798.

A Solidarity Banker mission is planned for July 2021 to support OKG in the evaluation of its digitalisation processes and the drafting of a new digital strategy. The expert sought is a Crédit Agricole employee with experience in IT project management, fluent in English (knowledge of Russian is a plus).

“Financial management” mission in favour of FATEN (Palestine)

FATEN is a microfinance institution based in Palestine. The institution serves 26,244 active borrowers (34% of whom are women and 68% live in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €108 million.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. The Solidarity Banker must be fluent in English and have knowledge of international standards relating to financial reporting and in particular, the latest changes to IFRS 16 and IFRS 9. The mission is to be filled as soon as possible.

“Digital Strategy” mission in favour of Smart Credit (Moldova)

Smart Credit is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to socially disadvantaged people and small entrepreneurs in Moldova. The institution has over 3,000 active borrowers (54% of whom are women and 69% are clients in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €4.4 million.

The Solidarity Banker will help build the digital strategy of Smart Credit. The expert is an employee of the Crédit Agricole group who is fluent in English and with experience in IT project management. The mission is to be filled as soon as possible.

How to apply?

To see the detailed offers of the missions:

  1. Go to the CA Solidaires website “Finding your mission
  2. Enter in the search bar: “Grameen Foundation”. All the Solidarity Leave offers will appear!
  3. Click on the offer of your choice. You will find all the information you need for your application.

More information: carolina.viguet@credit-agricole-sa.fr

KOSSAM and the digital payment for farmers in Senegal

Supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, CA Franche Comté and Amundi, Kossam SDE is a subsidiary of Laiterie du Berger that aims to structure and strengthen the dairy industry in Senegal. In February 2020, Kossam SDE successfully launched the dematerialisation of the “payroll” for more than 850 farmers contributing to the improvement of their living and working conditions. Spotlight on the interview for Portail FinDev of Jonathan Michaud (former Solidarity Banker of CA Franche Comté) Director for the past 3 years of Kossam SDE) and Mamadou Fall, his Deputy Director, who shed light on this transformation.

1. What used to be a typical payroll day before the transition to digital payroll?

Jonathan Michaud & Mamadou Fall: Until February 2020, all farmers were paid in cash during one or two specific paydays. Farmers used to travel to the factory in Richard Toll to collect the money due to them. Firstly, the cash payment was inconvenient for the farmers. They had to arrive early in the morning and sometimes wait all day in high temperatures. In addition, farmers were forced to come to Richard Toll on a specific day to get paid, without being able to make it fit in with their other travel. It was also laborious for Kossam SDE, as the teams had to handle cash for two days with some pressure linked to the waiting time of the farmers, which can lead to errors.

In November 2019, the Kossam SDE team decided to digitalise and the first digital payroll took place in February 2020.

2. What are the concrete benefits of digitalisation for farmers?

JM & MF: We have identified 5 benefits for farmers:

  • Time saving. Today, a farmer no longer has to wait hours to receive the payment.
  • Security. Everyone knew which day the farmers received their pay, which could potentially create a context of insecurity with risks of theft.
  • Flexibility. Now all farmers receive their money on the same date, but collect it when they want.
  • Cost. The majority of farmers do not live in Richard Toll and travelling there has a cost. They can now optimise the cost of their journey by deciding the day they will collect their money.
  • Traceability. Each farmer is identified in our database with his/her telephone number and identity card. We can therefore be sure that it is the farmer who is receiving the money, as we know which telephone number the funds are being sent to.

3. What solution have you put in place with Wizall Money to pay farmers?

JM & MF: The vast majority of our farmers do not have a smartphone. They have a basic phone that can only receive and send calls and SMS. We therefore opted for a code sent directly to the farmers’ phones. With this code and their ID, farmers go to the Wizall Money kiosk of their choice to withdraw their money. The beneficiaries (farmers) pay the costs associated with this service.

The introduction of this solution has clearly removed a considerable number of constraints for farmers, including time and organisation. In addition, we feared that farmers would be reluctant to pay for their money. However, the question of cost was not mentioned. On the contrary, it costs them much less than paying for transport to Richard Toll on a specific day of the month. We have not had any complaints in this regard.

4. More than a year after the digitisation was implemented, where do you stand? What is the next step?

JM & MF: The digitisation of the payroll was implemented just before the Covid-19 hit Senegal in March 2020, where drastic measures were quickly taken: curfews, forbidden gatherings, etc. Without digitisation, farmers would not have been able to move and would not have been paid.

Today, we are moving on to the second and final stage of payroll transformation. Indeed, there are 2 disadvantages to the SMS codes that our farmers receive on their phones: you need to have your own phone, which is not the case for all our farmers, and you also need a network. The main problem was that some people never received the code, so we had to keep paying them in cash.

To deal with this situation, we have provided all our farmers with an individual NFC card. The payment will be sent to this card in an electronic purse. Farmers can then go to a Wizall Money kiosk, hand over their card, enter their PIN and withdraw all or part of their money. There are no more network constraints and no more obligation to withdraw all the money paid in. This major innovation allows us to enter into new uses and services that are a form of micro-savings and passive savings.

From now on, we will be working on various subjects that digitalisation will enable us to tackle more effectively and with greater peace of mind: access to health insurance, development of savings and financial education.

Full interview in French on FinDev

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(1) The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole Franche Comté, shareholders of Laiterie du Berger, supported the creation of Kossam SDE as part of a technical assistance mission Solidarity Bankers, a skills volunteering programme of the Crédit Agricole Group. An agricultural engineer from the Regional Bank, who led the mission in 2018, left for 3 years to coordinate the launch of Kossam SDE. He is Jonathan Michaud, today General Manager of Kossam SDE.

Solidarity Bankers missions to be filled in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa

Launched in June 2018 at the initiative of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole SA, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme aimed at all Crédit Agricole Group employees in favour of microfinance institutions and social impact businesses supported by the Foundation. Three new missions are to be filled in 2021 in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa.

“Marketing Strategy” mission in Georgia

Lazika Capital, one of the leading microfinance institutions in Georgia. Established in 2000, Lazika provides financial services to low-income people, smallholder farmers and microentrepreneurs. The organisation operates through 18 branches, mainly in rural areas of Georgia (70% of active borrowers are rural).

The Solidarity Bankers mission aims to support Lazika in the development of a marketing plan for mid-2021-2022. If the health context allows it, the mission will be carried out in June or July 2021 in Georgia. If not, the mission will be postponed.

“Social and environmental performance” mission in Kyrgyzstan

Salym is a microfinance institution that provides affordable loans and deposits to support income-generating activities of low-income populations in Kyrgyzstan. The organisation currently has 23 branches across Kyrgyzstan and serves over 18,000 active borrowers, 52% of whom are women and 70% of whom live in rural areas.

A two-week Solidarity Bankers mission is planned to support Salym in managing its social and environmental performance. If the health context allows it, the mission will be carried out in September or October 2021 in Kyrgyzstan. If not, the mission can be carried out online.

“AML-CFT” mission in South Africa

SEF is a microfinance institution established in 1992 that provides financial and non-financial services to poor people in South Africa. The institution has 225,317 active borrowers (100% of women in living rural areas).

A Solidarity Bankers mission is to be filled to support SEF in the framing and training of its key employees on the risks associated with money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The field mission will take place in South Africa over a two-weeks period, if the sanitary conditions linked to Covid-19 allow it.

Two online missions are still available

A first “digital / IT” mission is available to support Smart Credit, a microfinance institution funded by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in Moldova. The mission of the Solidarity Banker will be to help build the digital strategy of Smart Credit. A second “financial management” mission is to be filled in favour of FATEN, a microfinance institution located in Palestine. The Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. These missions will be carried out remotely at the rate of one day per week, for 15 weeks.

How to apply?

To access the detailed offers of the missions:

  1. Go to the CA Solidaires website “Find a project
  2. Enter in the search bar: “Grameen Foundation”. All the Solidarity Bankers’ offers will appear!
  3. Click on the offer of your choice. You will find all the information you need to apply.
Further information: carolina.viguet@credit-agricole-sa.fr

OSHUN steps up its action to promote access to water in Senegal and Burkina Faso

More than 2 billion people around the world lack access to safely-managed drinking water services (*). In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of the population does not have access to water, mainly in rural areas and 135 million people, mainly women and girls, travel more than 30 minutes per day to have access to drinking water.

It is in that context that OSHUN, created at the end of 2017 and a partner of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation since 2018, deploys an innovative water access solution in rural areas. Through an economic model based on local entrepreneurship, OSHUN provides accessible quality water services at water kiosks, running on solar energy. These kiosks are managed by local entrepreneurs working as franchisees and integrate a digital component that optimizes their good management. This service, which is expected to develop widely in West Africa, has started in rural and peri-urban areas of Senegal and Burkina Faso.

Today, in addition to the kiosks, OSHUN is also working on installing water treatment systems in schools and health centres funded by public, private and solidarity partners. In collaboration with the NGO Marseille Provence Afrique Coopération, OSHUN has installed, since 2018, 120 water treatment systems in schools and health centers in Senegal. To date, this project serves around 40,000 beneficiaries with access to free drinking water. In addition to the installation and maintenance of equipment, OSHUN, in conjunction with community relays, sets up public awareness activities to help change behaviours. In the same spirit, the German Cooperation Agency for development (GIZ) has just ordered a turnkey project to OSHUN for the installation of 30 devices in health posts located in areas without electricity in Senegal.

In Burkina Faso, OSHUN is strengthening its action alongside the Société du Canal de Provence (SCP) as prime contractors in the rehabilitation of water pumps and the installation of water kiosks in 27 villages in the municipality of Bobo Dioulasso (second largest city in the country). Thus, the populations will be able to have access in the same place to raw water for domestic use and treated water for consumption. This project, which is to be completed in April 2021, will reach nearly 70,000 beneficiaries.

More information on OSHUN here.

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(*) Nations Unies