This is the last installment in our series, In Pursuit of Good Governance, with stories from our new annual report. The four-part series examines a question that our partners face every day: How do communities access and organize basic services to ensure a better quality of life? Reliable hospitals, schools and community centers. Flourishing economies. These are cornerstones of all healthy communities that allow people to gain the collective power to shape their futures.

The stories in this series offer snapshots of how the Aga Khan Foundation and our partners address that challenge– within a community, within a district, and across borders. Here Simplice Amani, Operations Manager, First Microfinance Agency (PAMF) Côte d’Ivoire, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM), describes how a collaboration with the Whole Planet Foundation is extending core financial services to families who need them.

Our work at First Microfinance Agency (PAMF) provides farming families with access to finance they have never had before, and is changing people’s lives in communities in northern Côte d’Ivoire. There, the average new PAMF client requests a loan of about $323. Over half of them are women, applying for loans to help their families get through hard seasons, cultivate small farms, and get a fair price for their crops. Most are repaid in nine months.

Our microfinance institution was established to help improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable rural populations who are beyond the reach of conventional banks. Through a partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and Whole Planet Foundation, we are expanding these families’ access to banking services so they can grow their livelihoods. Soon they will be able to access account funds using their mobile phone.

I joined PAMF in May 2010 but I have known AKDN in Côte d’Ivoire for many years through its for-profit enterprises that produce sisal and synthetic rope, polypropylene bags, and packaging for cocoa, coffee and cashew nuts. Another AKDN enterprise, Azito Energies, has provided electric power for over a decade.

Statistics of PAMF microfinance loans. Aga Khan Foundation is working with Whole Planet Foundation to give access to mobile finance to rural communities in Côte d'Ivoire.The partnership between PAMF and Whole Planet Foundation began in 2013 with funds to grow the PAMF loan portfolio in Korhogo and Boundiali. In 2014 Whole Planet put in an additional $150,000 – complemented by $30,000 from Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA) — to take microfinance services closer to communities in northern Côte d’Ivoire through mobile finance. As I see it, the program will:

  • provide even the most remote communities with access to basic financial services
  • improve the quality of our customers’ lives
  • contribute a key piece of infrastructure in the environment of microfinance: the mobile-based system for banking

Within three years, we aim to bring access to credit to 1,220 more clients, and increase access to savings for over 6,300 rural families who live beyond the reach of conventional banks.

Mobile Banking to Increase Access to Finance in Rural Côte d’Ivoire

For this, we are partnering with major mobile network providers to create a system that will let clients use their phones to access their bank accounts. This establishes the foundation of a mobile network that PAMF can expand to offer more savings and credit services. The $30,000 from AKF USA supports market research to ensure the new mobile system meets the long-term needs of rural clients – an often marginalized group that has rarely been asked about those needs before.

Beyond Côte d’Ivoire, this grant helps communities across West Africa, by enabling PAMF to develop and offer similar products in Burkina Faso and Mali.
“This marks the first contribution the Whole Planet Foundation has made in our Africa portfolio to this kind of effort,” says Brian Doe, Whole Planet Foundation’s Regional Director for Africa/Middle East. “The mobile interface and its potential are very exciting.”

The many inspiring people in this program include loan officers like Coulibaly Seydou, who was honored as “truly exemplary” in Whole Planet’s Africa/MENA Field Officer Appreciation Award. Coulibaly goes above and beyond in his role as Loan Officer. He had over 500 clients in 2013 before he moved to start a new office in Tongon, where he has gone even further to reach families who never before had access to credit. Within a few months he extended the benefits of microfinance to more than 20 villages.

These loans make a huge difference for families that face a cash crunch every year. AKDN is working to make it possible for them to use mobile phones to ease that crunch without having to travel many miles to the nearest bank.