Project objectives
To facilitate and co-finance in a first phase the elaboration of a diagnostic analysis and of an action plan and in a second phase the implementation of digital solutions by MFIs.  

Areas of intervention
Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

Project managers

All videos on digital finance

In developing economies only 54% of adults reported have an account.

2 billion people lack a financial account in emerging economies.

Up to 90% lower cost from providing digital rather than physical accounts.

The Digital Finance Initiative

Promoting the financial inclusion of the most disadvantaged people by helping MFIs to open new distribution channels and to offer new innovative products: this is the dual social and financial objective of digital finance. For many MFIs, making this shift towards the digital world requires a rethinking of their business model. The “Digital Finance Initiative” was devised as a response to this issue.


Objectives of the "Digital Finance Initiative" project

The Digital Finance Initiative (DFI) has been established over a 5 year period. It began in 2017 and will run until 2021.

The DFI’s objective is to help microfinance institutions (MFIs) to define and to implement their digital strategy in order to improve their financial and social performances and, as a consequence, to favour financial inclusion in their country.

ADA’s Digital Finance Initiative (DFI) represents an opportunity to accelerate the development of financial inclusion by supporting the MFIs and encouraging them to open up new alternative distribution channels to improve their geographic coverage and to offer new innovative products and services to their beneficiaries and/or to improve their operational efficiency.

In order to do this, these MFIs benefit from the support of a dedicated team of which helps them to identify their needs, to identify the digital solutions and to implement them by providing a financial contribution, as well as support to manage the project.

The DFI is therefore able to provide strategic, methodological and technical support, as well financial support to those who reach the stage of implementing the chosen solution.

3-step support

Step 1: initial workshop to identify the priorities
The DFI workshop brings together MFI senior managers for a week. It aims to give them a complete vision of the various challenges, opportunities and constraints represented by the new technologies. It gives them the keys to analyse all possible scenarios for integrating digital into their strategy and to evaluate the expected impacts in technical, operational, financial and regulatory terms. The aim is for participants to emerge from the workshop with clear ideas about the digital strategy they wish to adopt.

Step 2: pre-project phase: establishing a digital project
MFIs that wish to continue the adventure have their new project validated by their governance firstly. Then, supported by the ADA manager in charge of the "Digital Finance Initiative" project and local consultants, they can launch their action plan. This plan provides for the establishment of specifications, the publication of calls for tenders and the selection of technical service providers, the establishment of a schedule and finally the drafting of a co-financing file which will be submitted to a selection committee, composed of members of the Board of Directors of ADA, Deloitte Digital, POST Luxembourg and LuxFLAG. The application, if approved, is co-financed by ADA (and possibly other donors) by up to 70% of the investment costs, up to a maximum of €100,000.

Step 3: pilot phase: implementation of the digital project
After acceptance of the file by the Committee, the implementation of the project can start with a pilot on the scale of one or two agencies. At this stage, ADA offers the MFI financial support, as well as support in all areas impacted by the project: redefinition of procedures, staff and client training needs, risk management. As soon as the test phase is complete and conclusive, the MFI deploys the project throughout the network. It is at this moment that the accompaniment of ADA stops, having then considered the institution as autonomous.


The project is aimed at the Least Developed Countries

Initially, the Digital Finance Initiative is aimed at the small and medium-sized MFIs (Tier II and Tier III) based in sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of which are members of the group of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs): Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Republic, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Togo, ….

ADA is convinced that the digital finance tools will make it possible to open up access to financial services at an unprecedented pace in these countries which still have a low rate of financial inclusion.

Countries targeted by the Digital Financial Inclusion Initiative Mobile penetration

Matthew Genazzini, Head of Technical Support to Microfinance Institutions Unit at ADA, talks about the "Digital Finance Initiative" project


More videos on digital finance

Digital finance for all remains a major challenge

In recent years, the development of technologies dedicated to financial services has had a considerable impact, not only on traditional finance, but also in the world of microfinance. More and more people who earn only a few dollars a day now have access to the Internet and mobile phones. Moreover, for many of them, especially those living in rural areas, mobile technology has become the first gateway to financial services, but also to information and education.

Numerous studies have confirmed that digital financial services are the most effective way to provide fast, cheap and secure access to banking services. Despite these impressive advances, more than two billion people remain financially excluded, mainly among the most vulnerable segments of society. The potential of digital finance therefore remains largely to be exploited.

According to the World Bank, mobile money services and technological innovations have enabled about 700 million adults to escape financial exclusion for the first time between 2011 and 2014.

The role of MFIs in access to digital finance

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) have long played a crucial role in financial inclusion. And they understood that the use of new technologies would enable them to strengthen their capacity to reach populations that they cannot serve because of their geographical remoteness or economic situation.

The adoption of digital tools therefore represents a crucial opportunity for MFIs, especially in order to:
- further develop their customer base, through geographical expansion of their activities and by reaching new low-income customer segments with more affordable services;
- respond positively to the growing demand from their clients, who will be able to use their services after hours and on weekends, which will reduce travel time and costs to meet with a loan officer;
- streamline some of the organization's costs and procedures;
- register their transactions faster and more securely
- expand their product range;
- reduce the price of the services offered;
- promote their clients' digital culture as a means of increasing their autonomy.

Nevertheless, for many MFIs, the adoption of digital finance tools is not obvious due to many constraints, including :
- the complexity of the choice among available technologies and their implementation;
- the economic availability and skills needed to create and manage a mobile money system;
- the scale to be achieved to justify the necessary investment;
- the need for a strong basic banking IT infrastructure;
- the development of a clear strategy for the use of digital financial services.

To do this, they need to mobilize skills that most do not have, especially small and medium-sized microfinance institutions that have fewer financial resources and are less able to take the risks that such a major change entails.

Success factors of the "Digital Finance Initiative" project

Arnaud de Lavalette

«The experience of the last few months shows that a project’s success factors are dependent upon the comprehensive support of the governance structure, the project leader’s attitude and commitment in terms of time, spirits and resources, as well as the involvement of the entire department.»
Arnaud de Lavalette, Digital Finance Initiative Project Manager at ADA


Indeed, the real motivation of the MFI and its management are essential conditions for the success of the project. In this respect, it is important that the internal digital strategy is clearly established, the expected benefits objectively evaluated and the difficulties, costs and constraints well weighed.

The availability of the project manager: assuming that the preconditions are met, the project manager will have to be (partially or totally) released from his usual obligations in order to be able to devote himself to the digital project, subject to which the project may be delayed and then abandoned.


October 2019

ADA engages MFIs and their suppliers in a dialogue

Meeting organized during SAM 2019 between Léon Houndjago, CEO of CAGECFI, Ousmane Thiongane, General Manager of UMCEC Senegal and Arnaud De Lavalette, our Digital Project Manager.

October 2019

ADA engages MFIs and their suppliers in a dialogue

Meeting organized during SAM 2019 between Léon Houndjago, CEO of CAGECFI, Ousmane Thiongane, General Manager of UMCEC Senegal and Arnaud De Lavalette, our Digital Project Manager.

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