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PHB Development, towards financial inclusion

Summer 2016

Focus Group on Mobile Money in Uganda (June, 2016)

In PHB Development's Newsletter you will find:

  1. Latest updates on European Microfinance Week 2016
  2. Strategic Insights from David Kleiman: Kick-starting DFS in Lao PDR
  3. Strategic Insights from Philippe Breul: Government to People Payments make a difference
  4. Strategic Insights from PHB Academy
  5. Latest updates on PHB Development's activities in 2016


European Microfinance Week

The European Microfinance Week will take place on November 16-18, 2016 in Luxembourg. This year the conference will focus us on Microfinance and Access to Education. On November 16, PHB Development will hold two sessions for the Digital Innovations for Financial Empowerment Action Group: Big Data & Microfinance: Opportunities and Risks and The Power of Fintech in the Field of Microfinance.


Interview with PHB Development Consultant, David Kleiman, on Digital Financial Services (DFS) implementation in Lao PDR

David Kleiman

In September 2014, PHB arrived in Lao PDR for an engagement of 22 consecutive months to support UNCDF’s MAFIPP program in launching the first ever DFS service. PHB Development’s Associate, David Kleiman, reflects on the Technical Assistance (TA) provided:

What was the status of DFS regulation?

The Bank of the Lao PDR (BOL) was well aware of the potential benefits of DFS for the country, but had no existing policy or direct experience. PHB Development supported BOL through daily interaction, awareness visits to Tanzania and Uganda, workshops and interaction with industrial players to build their understanding of DFS regulation and supervision. BOL now has draft regulation and application guidelines for DFS licenses.

How was the regulation promoted and how did the industry respond? 

BOL organises quarterly DFS Working Groups that are facilitated by PHB Development to engage MNOs, MFIs, and banks. So far, three organisations have applied for licenses. The first to receive permission was Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL), the largest bank in Lao PDR in terms of customers, branches, and ATM network. BCEL soon announced BCEL Community Money Express (BCOME), as Lao PDR’s first, and at present only, Branchless Banking Service. Additionally, 2 MNOs received permission to introduce mobile wallets, of which one aims to launch in 2016.

BCOME agent, Mrs Nouteng Sybounheueang, with a customer in Souvannaphoum Village,
Parklai District, Lao PDR (February, 2016)

What factors contributed most to BCOME’s success?

Initially, raising awareness on the need to create an ecosystem in which DFS can thrive was essential. Next, to ensure BCOME was operational within BCEL, it had to be driven by motivated people and management support. Additionally, BCOME needed to find a steady place within BCEL’s organisational structure, so in November 2015 it was embedded in the Treasury and International Service Division. Finally, MAFIPP's, PHB Development's, BOL's, and BCEL's close collaboration has been vital in creating a platform for BCOME.

In addition to PHB Development’s international experts, our local national consultants provided invaluable local context and helped to develop relationships with stakeholders. In all, 7 PHB Development consultants have been deployed to fill the capacity gaps. PHB Development has ultimately helped to open a brand new market. We have been a catalyst for the development and adoption of Branchless Banking in Lao PDR.

How do you see the future of DFS in Lao PDR?

With BCOME, Lao now has a DFS model that can be replicated. Payments companies, large corporates, and leasing firms can also leverage DFS in this predominantly cash-based economy. This will create a diverse ecosystem in which DFS can sustainably thrive.

Interview with Founder and Managing Partner of PHB Development, Philippe Breul, on G2P in Africa


Philippe Breul

Philippe, do Government to People (G2P) digital payment programs really benefit underserved communities in Africa? 

Yes, they do. As an example, Digital Payments from Governments and international donors to Ebola response workers have helped save lives in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. 

How is PHB Development supporting G2P payments?

PHB is supporting the World Bank’s G2P strategy in Nigeria and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, the Safety Net Digital Payments approach we designed was implemented with success and is expanding from 50k to 250k beneficiaries. In Nigeria, PHB is supporting the World Bank to serve 10 million beneficiaries in the coming 5 years. In Senegal, Innate Motion and PHB Development are conducting an MM4P Human Centered Design Project for Digital Payments for Senegalese pensioners. Finally, in Jordan and Zambia, we have worked to secure cash withdrawals and introduce digital payments in refugee camps. But, of course, a lot remains to be done.

PHB Development has a new Expert!                                                

We are happy to welcome Emmanuel Mudahemika! Emmanuel is from Rwanda and previously worked as an investment manager and portofiolo manager for an SME investment fund focused on Africa and the Middle East.

Emmanuel Mudahemika



Illustration from PHB Academy's eWorkshop Platform

Celebrating PHB's eWorkshop Graduates!

In July, at least fifteen FINCA Zambia branch managers and agent supervisors will complete Module 2 of PHB’s eWorkshop on Agent Network Management.

PHB’s eWorkshops are highly interactive on-the-job learning events. During a period of 7 weeks, participants log in for an hour per day. Half of the time they practice skills individually, the other half they work in teams sharing their experiences, solving problems together, and jointly developing guidelines and tools.

You may find it interesting that:

  • Zambia suffered from frequent day time power cuts during the first module. The online nature of the course made it possible for participants to take the course at any time of the day or night. 75% of Zambian participants completed most of the course work after working hours.
  • Not all participants had easy access to a computer and wifi. The low bandwidth design of the course (no videos) made it possible to participate via mobile phones. 50% of Zambian participants did most of the course via mobile phones.
  • The exclusive use of asynchronous discussion forums (no video conferences or chats) gave participants time to formulate their thoughts. In the end, all participants contributed to the discussions, something that in face-to-face workshops is hard to achieve especially when participants lack self-confidence and/or English is not their mother tongue. 
This experience has shown that eWorkshops are a cost-effective method for on-the-job training of managers and field staff. They not only result in improved skills, but also in a set of new or improved tools for managing agents.

PHB eWorkshop Success Story

Nyabutui, an agent supervisor, had planned to go on leave during a workshop, and yet she logged in every day. One day she announced, “We have a new baby on the course!” She logged in on Friday, gave birth on Saturday, and was back on Monday. This demonstrated how well PHB’s eWorshops were designed to fit into participants’ lives. Nyabutui graduated with honours!

To learn more contact Pete Sparreboom:

Pete Sparreboom 



Preparing MFIs for Digital Transformation

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are major contributors to financial inclusion in Africa, which is why PHB Development is currently supporting various initiatives with MFIs. We are excited to share with you PHB Development's most recent activities in this domain:

  • PHB Development is leading DFS strategy and business model workshops with several MFIs in Benin and Senegal in collaboration with UNCDF’s MM4P.
  • PHB Development is supporting UNCDF’s MicroLead to develop Toolkits for MFIs to succeed in the Digital Age
  • PHB Development worked on the Design and Implementation of DFS Pilots in collaboration with PAMIGA in Madagascar and Kenya.
  • PHB Development supported the launch of two Pilots in collaboration with PAMIGA Senegal.
  • PHB Development is collaborating with FINCA to prepare for DFS in Malawi and to improve performance of their DFS in Zambia. 



Evaluating BIO’s Impact in East Africa

PHB Development was mandated by the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) to evaluate its financial sector investments and contribution to local economic development in East Africa. Using a sample of 5 investees and an evaluation that was based on the common OECD/DAC evaluation method and Theory of Change approach, PHB Development concluded that BIO’s performance was satisfactory and that BIO demonstrated strong relevance for development. The five investees currently provide access to finance to about 32,000 MSMEs.



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Tel: +32 495 32 32 88
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