“Branchless Banking” is Transforming Lives in Africa

January 8, 2015

Tom McPheron, Director of Communications, Opportunity International

One of the best ways to improve lives and reduce hunger in Africa is to help farmers thrive. Opportunity International is rolling out cell phone banking and other “branchless banking” mobile technologies across Africa to enable farmers to access loans, open savings accounts, purchase insurance and receive other critical financial tools to help them manage their farms and become more successful.

Courtesy: Opportunity Int'l

Courtesy: Opportunity Int’l

Most African farms operate at just 30 percent of their capacity, according to John Magnay, head of agricultural programs at Opportunity International. As a result, the organization also helps farmers use GPS technology to map farm plots to ensure more precise application of seeds and fertilizers. This enhances the quality of crops and increase yields to not only help farmers feed their families but their entire community.

“It’s an exciting trend in the industry,” Magnay said. “If you rolled the time back five years, African farmer did not have any access to finance. The clients that we finance have never had a formal bank account before in their lives. Opportunity International is a pioneer in this area, but with over 150 million smallholder farming families across Africa the demand is great.”

Mary Makkazi on her maize farm. Courtesy: Opportunity Int'l

Mary Makkazi on her maize farm. Courtesy: Opportunity Int’l

Mary Makkazi, a maize farmer with a small farm outside Mityana, Uganda, is a great example of how technology is transforming lives. Until a year ago, farmers in her small, remote area had no access to banking services. After receiving a $180 loan delivered remotely through Opportunity’s mobile banking program, Makkazi has improved her crop yields and returns an average $50 in profits each month. She has used the funds to build a home for her family and pay tuition and buy uniforms, books and other supplies to keep her children in school.

“I have seen my life improve dramatically from the Opportunity loan,” Makkazi said. “I’m proud I’m now able to support my family and intend to take another loan to expand my farm and profits.”

Asuman, left, measures his fields with a GPS device and help from Regional Agricultural Supervisor John Peter Emoi, center, and fellow farmer Joseph Mulandya. Courtesy: Opportunity Int'l.

Asuman, left, measures his fields with a GPS device and help from Regional Agricultural Supervisor John Peter Emoi, center, and fellow farmer Joseph Mulandya. Courtesy: Opportunity Int’l.

Opportunity International is rolling out mobile technology programs, which include tablets and cell phone banking, in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – with plans to expand into other areas in the near future.  Opportunity International loan officers in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, for example, are using mobile tablets to not only enable clients to apply remotely for loans and other services, but to collect data on farmers to continually improve the products and services the organization offers.  Discover more at opportunity.org.