Summary: Advans CI has been offering financial services to cocoa farmers in their value chains since 2012. Since 2015 the affiliate has introduced a branchless banking solution to encourage producers to save and to secure their financial transactions. The latest pilot includes a digital school loan which producers can access on their mobile.
Why offer our services to cocoa producers?
Advans has targeted cocoa farmers in their value chain since the start of operations in 2012. Côte d'Ivoire is the leading country in terms of cocoa production (1.2 million tons of annual production, i.e. more than 40% of the world supply). The cocoa sector in Côte d'Ivoire is therefore vital for the country's growth. However, cocoa farmers remain excluded from traditional banking systems.
A recent study showed that only 6% of Ivorian cocoa producers had access to a bank account.The lack of formal accounts is all the more problematic because cocoa growing is a seasonal activity, which means that large sums of money circulate over a concentrated period (nearly 1.4 billion euros for 1.2 million tons). Because of a lack of secure solutions cocoa payments are made in cash which increases the risk of robbery.
How did Advans develop services adapted to the needs of these producers?
In 2015, pursuing it mission to accelerate financial inclusion, Advans Côte d'Ivoire decided to address this challenge with the support of CGAP, by relying on digital distribution channels as an alternative to cash. After a survey with producers and cooperatives, Advans CI implemented a mobile payment solution on savings accounts for cocoa farmers and adapted mobile withdrawal channels allowing:
- Cooperatives to pay their farmers directly into their savings account via an internal transfer made from their phone (mobile banking self-service solution);
- Farmers to make transactions on their Advans account and make free withdrawals on their accounts when needed through transfers to or from their MTN Mobile Money accounts.
Farmers are registered on the banking system through a remote digital solution, an alternative which has made it possible to open savings accounts for 14,500 producers. Field agents travel around daily on motorbikes from cooperative to cooperative to raise awareness on the importance of savings and to train the farmers in the use of the self-service menu.
In 2017, more than 350 million FCFA (€533K) were deposited on farmers savings accounts, more than twice the amount deposited in 2016 (for 12 000 producers). These results are all the more encouraging given that the guaranteed purchase price for cocoa producers fell by more than 30% between 2016 and 2017 (from € 1.70 per kilo to € 1.15).
The introduction of the a new digital loan for school fees
Encouraged by this success, Advans CI wanted to offer new products adapted to the needs of producers. Having access to an education loan most interested the cocoa farmers. The start of school coincides with the low period for cocoa, when many farmers face significant financial difficulties which are a barrier to their children being able to start school on time. 40% of the producers we met were still expecting their first cocoa income of the season in late October to be able send their children to school. The other producers had the alternative of borrowing from their cooperative or from a usurer. In July 2017, Advans CI launched an automatic digital credit for this purpose. Producers can apply for a loan between August and September on the same Mobile Banking menu that they use for savings. The producer enters an amount and thanks to an algorithm based on the history of their deliveries, savings and on the cooperative’s rating, they automatically receives a response indicating the amount for which they are eligible. If the producer accepts, the amount is instantly disbursed to their savings account. The repayment schedule then follows the rhythm of the cocoa season. Producers can claim a loan ranging from 30 to 300 euros. During the pilot, 242 producers benefited from digital school credit for a total amount of € 32,000, which they all payed back on time.
A promising future for digital channels
These first examples cocoa producers adopting digital channels are promising, and pave the way for the deployment of similar solutions with producers in other agricultural sectors as well as in other countries where Advans operates. This success confirms the potential to extend the range of products offered to cocoa producers (microinsurance, solar equipment financing, etc.). Advans is also working on the adaptation of a digital loan for its urban clientele.
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After working in telecom and consulting, I joined Advans Côte d’Ivoire in 2015 to implement a solution facilitating access to financial services for cocoa farmers, as well as other digital services allowing Advans to better reach clients in rural areas.