- September 15, 2016
Microcred is undergoing a transformation process to serve the mass market with a range of inclusive financial services distributed digitally and via our branchless banking network Baobab.
Baobab by Microcred is a digital financial services and branchless banking solution for the mass market and financially excluded. Today, Baobab is primarily an agent banking network that was created in Senegal and Madagascar beginning in 2014 as an extension of the services provided in Microcred’s branches. The agents conduct cash-in and cash-out transactions as well as money transfer services for Microcred clients using biometric devices and laptops to tap into Microcred’s system. These transactions include repaying loans, depositing or withdrawing savings and transferring money from one account to another. For an example of a Baobab transaction, watch the following video which illustrates a withdrawal at a Baobab agent:
Today, Microcred’s Baobab network consists of 519 service points in Senegal and 321 points in Madagascar. The network provides the necessary infrastructure to scale up services and add on new products that will benefit a broader range of clients in locations far from any branches. Following are some figures to illustrate the current activity of the networks in each country.
Microcred clients currently use the Baobab network for a limited number of products which translates to a limited number of transactions for the agent. Generally, clients withdraw their loan at the beginning of the loan cycle and then make repayments each month. Through a partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, Microcred is developing various new digital products including bill payments, automatic loan renewal, nano loans, account to cash transfers and pay as you go for solar lamps, among others. These Baobab products will increase the number of transactions per agent on a monthly basis, thereby also improving the sustainability of the network. In addition to offering a range of products to achieve an optimum level of transactions, the agents and their quality of service play a primary role in the Baobab network.
So, who are the Baobab agents sustaining the network?
Over the summer, I visited some Baobab agents and clients in Madagascar. I wanted to learn why they decided to engage with Microcred, what motivates them and what they dream of for the future.
Volatiana is one of the top 10 Baobab agents in Madagascar. She works alongside her husband who manages their hardware and auto parts shop from which they offer Baobab financial services as well as various mobile money cash in and cash out services. Their shop is advantageously located on a busy roundabout with 4 intersecting roads in the south of Antananarivo — one of the intersecting roads is national highway 1, which is the main road leading to the West of Madagascar from the capital. All around the shop the streets are bulging with small vendors and mazes of houses and apartments with many Microcred clients living in the neighborhood. Volatiana and her husband have been Microcred loan clients since 2011 and integrated Baobab into their offerings in 2014. Their primary motivation to become part of the Baobab network was to have an additional income source from the commission. Following are some numbers describing Volatiana’s Baobab activity
They have cultivated their success over the years and opened a second Baobab service point with 3 operators (the equivalent of a bank teller) and in addition manage a passenger bus service with 5 buses running to the provinces regularly. Clearly this business couple is motivated to serve clients. When I asked about the advice they would give to new Baobab agents, Volatiana commented,
“You have to focus on the clients and building trust with the clients.”
In terms of future plans she and her husband would like to open a 3rd Baobab service point but feel that they cannot handle much more activity and would rather focus on expanding and improving their current activities.