The project aims to pilot digital financial-service products such as savings, mobile credit and insurance as well as financial literacy for women, youth and micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). It also contributes to policy development and technical support in the area of financial technology (FinTech) as well as strengthening the financial sector to support the financial inclusion of low-income populations, enabling them to have access to loans and savings, which can be used to access better health care, education and other services. There are three core project interventions: establishment of an investment facility (catalytic funding), advocacy and capacity-building, and evidence-based learning and knowledge-sharing.
Financial technologies in Sierra Leone need more technical and capital investments than initially estimated. Many of the solutions were early-stage ideas, and more technical assistance, investment capital and time will be required to take them to market. Therefore, the second edition of the project-supported FinTech Challenge focuses on mature start-ups with proven solutions that can partner with the local players.
The market needs to build networks with other similar markets where financial technologies have demonstrated scalable solutions, hence the real need for South-South cooperation. The tremendous human capital and know-how could be leveraged through South-South cooperation in more-developed markets such as India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria and South Africa, which could partner with local players to create added value and investments beyond the Challenge. The project has prioritized facilitating exchanges of knowledge and technology between Sierra Leone and the other Southern countries.
The support to the Bank of Sierra Leone, the regulator of the financial sector and the financial sector at large has laid a solid foundation for the growth of the sector and sustainable development with possible South-South cooperation initiatives. The project will continue enhancing the in-house capacity of the Bank of Sierra Leone to continue the digital financial services and products developed and implemented thanks to the partnership with the IBSA Fund.
- Piloting of the digital loan (the emergency COVID-19 credit product) continued with increased momentum, reaching 15,000 customers and providing digital financial services to underserved communities.
- The Bank of Sierra Leone, with the technical support from the IBSA Fund-supported project, released the tiered know-your-client (KYC) guidelines, which will increase and deepen financial inclusion by simplifying the procedure for opening a bank account.
- The two financial technology solutions are finalized and are being implemented in partnership with the Central Bank of Sierra Leone to support improving transparency in government transactions and access to finance for the rural poor.
- Technical support has been provided to the Bank of Sierra Leone to operationalize the national financial literacy framework. The development of a new Consumer Protection Framework for Retail Financial Services has been finalized, which emphasizes protection to women, MSMEs and youths while engaging with the financial system.
- 8 Bank of Sierra Leone staff have been certified as digital-money and consumer-protection practitioners through two online training courses.
- Public-private dialogue has been supported by facilitating working group meetings between the regulator and the private sector to discuss policy interventions and challenges in the financial sector.