A look back at 2020

Like small businesses across the globe, ConsumerCentriX felt firsthand the challenges of the pandemic in our work.  The very nature of how we go about our business suddenly changed. As consultants, we have spent years addressing financial inclusion in emerging markets by working closely with local partners the world over – largely in person. By the end of March, it was clear that traveling would no longer be a possibility for us for the foreseeable future.

Instead, we had to find new ways to stay connected to our partners in different markets. We retained local teams in Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda to ensure that projects stayed on schedule and developed new relationships with additional external partners.

It will come as no surprise that like many, we traded meetings in bank boardrooms for meetings on computer screens. And while there is no true replacement for an in-person meeting, we realized that many of our established relationships could be maintained through regular video conferencing. For example, in 2019, we convened a group of high-level regulators at the Bellagio Center in Italy to discuss strategies for accelerating digital financial inclusion. Bonds were cemented and the group was committed to continue to work together. We anticipated re-convening the group in three additional in-person sessions over 2020-2021; however, in light of the pandemic, we took the group virtual. Each month, the group reconvenes on Zoom and discusses topics ranging from recent regulatory changes to improve banking laws to strategizing on how to leverage technologies such as QR codes for improved customer transactions.

The pandemic not only forced us to change the way we communicate with partners and external stakeholders but also allowed us to innovate when it came to interacting directly with entrepreneurs. When lockdowns began in Rwanda and Uganda back in March, we recognized the challenges that all entrepreneurs in these two countries faced in finding a centralized place to get information. As a result, we created two digital platforms, the SME Response Clinic and the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.  Both sites provide regular updates on new policies, products and financial advice with the intention of helping entrepreneurs not only survive the pandemic but thrive in the time ahead.

Lastly, we also changed the way we interact with other stakeholders working in the financial inclusion space. We were excited to release a publication recently on the business case for providing non-financial services to women-owned SMEs at two highly visible virtual events – a Financial Alliance for Women Event in October and the SME Finance Forum in November.  While we would have love to spoken in person with stakeholders about the publication, we were deeply gratified by conversations and enthusiasm communicated via virtual panels and chat messages.

While many things changed for us in 2020, our commitment to creating a more equitable world through inclusive finance has not wavered. If anything, our work has become more important than ever as the pandemic exacerbated economic disparities across markets.  We hope to have made a lasting impact through the projects we wrapped up this year and to continue to make meaningful impact through new projects we engage in over the months and years to come.

2020 Project Updates

The following sections provide more information on our work in 10+ markets during what has been an unforgettable year.

OUr team had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to work on the segmentation one month before the lockdown.

Developing a holistic SME banking model to address financial and non-financial needs of entrepreneurs in East Africa

The key objective of this project is to develop a holistic SME banking model to address financial and non-financial needs of entrepreneurs in Uganda and Rwanda by partnering with two leading regional banks (Stanbic/Standard Bank Group and Kenya Commercial Bank) as well as NFS providers over a 3-year time period. We conducted customer segmentation studies that informed the design of SME propositions in both countries and assisted in the development of NFS offers for both banks.  This project is funded by the Argidius Foundation

The Key to Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women led Small and Medium Enterprises for Banks

Global research on the insights in the business case for non-financial services to women-owned SMEs

In the fall of 2020, ConsumerCentriX produced a report and two case studies for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), focusing on insights into the business case for non-financial services. Through extensive primary and secondary research, ConsumerCentriX identified the business case and best practices in providing non-financial services to women-owned SMEs

Click here to l.earn more about the Publication

Check out videos from the KCB Case Study

KCB Bank: Focusing on Women SMEs and non-financial services is a win-win for all

Non-financial services were instrumental in growing Patricia Mwangi’s business in Kenya

NFS from her bank helped Wanjiru Mbugua turn a side hustle into a thriving business

COVID-19 Business Info Hub

Introducing the COVID-19 Business Info Hub

In May 2020, Stanbic Bank and ConsumerCentriX launched the COVID-19 Business Info Hub. This website was developed to meet the needs of small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda in understanding the latest policies affecting SMEs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken by Stanbic Bank and venture funds to support clients and non-clients. The site also provides access to experts from the public and financial sectors and access to online training and business skills development courses for entrepreneurs through the Stanbic Business Incubator.

Check out example videos from the COVID-19 Business Info Hub

Cleaning up after COVID-19: An Interview with Lydia Syson Naiga of NLS Services Limited

Meet Rachel Lubega, Director of Quality Management Services Ltd

Meet Anne Namakula, Owner of Contour Consult

The SME Response Clinic

In May 2020, Access to Finance Rwanda and ConsumerCentriX launched the SME Response Clinic. This website was developed to meet the needs of small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in Rwanda in understanding the latest policies affecting SMEs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken by financial services providers to support clients and non-clients. The site also provides access to experts from the public and financial sectors and access to online training and business skills development courses for business owners. While the site has a particular focus on SMEs, information relevant for microenterprises is also available.

Introducing the SME Response Clinic

Check out example pieces of content from the SME Response Clinic

Simbare Gilbert, an Entrepreneur in Rwanda, explains the challenges of the pandemic and how he managed to overcome them.

Giselle Mukanyandwi, a Business Development Advisor, prepares entrepreneurs to overcome hardships and thrive

Mobile Money Charges in Rwanda

Bellagio Working Group on Digital Financial Inclusion

In 2019, ConsumerCentriX conceived and facilitated “Identifying Practical Solutions to Accelerating Financial Inclusion Through Government and Private Sector Collaborations” convening with top regulators from Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria and leading technical experts which resulted in identification of country-level initiatives that have been subsequently incorporated into national financial inclusion plans in respective markets.  Through the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bellagio Working Group on Digital Financial Inclusion was formalized in the spring of 2020.Through monthly virtual meetings, participants continue to collaborate by sharing important lessons and continuing to work together to find solutions for accelerating digital financial inclusion.

Check out this blog on the Bellagio Working Group to learn more.

Designing a Chatbot for Access Bank Nigeria

Through intensive market research and user testing, ConsumerCentriX helped design a user-friendly chatbot for a leading microfinance bank in Nigeria as part of their strategy to make more digital channels available to their clients. Research and user testing indicated that while COVID-19 has created many challenges for entrepreneurs, it has also made them more open to trying new technology. CCX provided key insights to support the institution in taking steps to bring customers along the journey from in-person interactions to personalized interactions via digital channels. The project was funded by the CDC Group.

Building National Gender Data Ecosystems

The Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership was established in 2014 and is one of the leading voices on women’s financial inclusion data across the world.  After focusing on awareness building and outreach during the partnership’s early years, the next phase of efforts centers around supporting country-level sex-disaggregated supply-side data collection with a specific focus on two stakeholders: financial service providers and policymakers. The holistic ecosystem approach will actively encourage supply side gender data in Nigeria, Kenya, Bangladesh, Honduras, Pakistan, Turkey, Lebanon by 2022. ConsumerCentrix, is supporting the implementation of this second phase.

Enhancing access to finance for refugees through innovation

This summer, ConsumerCentriX joined forces with Roland Berger, Europe’s leading strategy consultancy firm, to identify opportunities for IFC to improve access to finance for refugees in immigration hotspots like Uganda, Jordan, and Colombia. Leveraging years of experience developing financial solutions in emerging markets, ConsumerCentriX conducted an in-depth analysis of financial and social realities facing refugees in their host countries. After extensive stakeholder engagement, ideation for innovative solutions to mobilize private sector resources and virtual Upstream workshops with over 100 attendants from relevant institutions, a clear roadmap for IFC was developed. This roadmap will lead to several pilot projects in 2021 to support refugee entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on growing businesses in the renewable energy sector.  ConsumerCentriX is excited to apply its expertise further in the diaspora space to improve financial outcomes for refugees around the globe.