Is There a Business Case for Digital Financial Services for Women Farmers?


06 April 2021 9:00 am - 10:15 am EDT
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Women in rural areas, and in particular female farmers, have significantly less access to financial services than their male counterparts. Digital Financial Services (DFS) have the potential to unlock financial services for women in agriculture, but are constrained by significant gender gaps in DFS access and usage. 

In 2018, the World Bank provided Technical Assistance (TA) to three Financial Service Providers (FSPs) – Digifarm in Kenya, myAgro in Tanzania, and Fenix in Uganda – to help them design and deliver digitally-enabled financial services to female farmers. In this webinar, the three FSPs and their technical assistance providers shared insights on the customer research process, their challenges, and the results from these engagements.  

Event Resources

Webinar presentations >>

World Bank paper: Women in Agriculture : Using Digital Financial Services - Lessons Learned from Technical Assistance Support to DigiFarm, Fenix, and myAgro >>

CGAP Blog: Exploring Innovative Financial Services for Rural Women’s Livelihoods >>

CGAP Leadership Essay: Women and Finance: Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment >>

Expert Bios


Henriette KolbHenriette Kolb | Head of the Gender and Economic Inclusion Group, IFC

Henriette Kolb leads the Gender and Economic Inclusion Group at IFC. She serves as an advocate for gender equality issues in the private sector and works with IFC’s clients to include both women and men as entrepreneurs, employees, consumers, community stakeholders and leaders. She leads a global team that is engaged in co-creating gender-smart private sector solutions through research, investments, advice and peer learning platforms. Before joining IFC, Henriette was the CEO of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the UN representative in the Middle East Quartet team advising Tony Blair in Jerusalem. Henriette also worked for the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and has held positions as governance advisor with the European Commission Delegation to Tanzania, the German Technical Cooperation Agency in Germany, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Tanzania.

Ade AyasheAde Ashaye | Executive Vice Present, Women’s World Banking

Ade Ashaye is the Executive Vice President of Women’s World Banking. He leads the organization’s efforts to grow and broaden the Network of financial service providers committed to achieving women’s financial inclusion. Ade was most recently a Country Manager for Visa West Africa, where he was responsible for managing Visa’s relationships with key industry stakeholders in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Liberia.


Jamie AndersonJamie Anderson | Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Rural and Agricultural Livelihoods, CGAP

Jamie Anderson, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, leads CGAP’s work on rural and agricultural livelihoods, which focuses on women and their critical roles in food and financial systems. Prior to CGAP, Jamie worked at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, as an independent consultant in rural and agricultural finance for the Boulder Institute of Microfinance and GIZ, the University of California Small Farm Center, and in fresh-market organic vegetable production. 


Panos VarangisPanos Varangis | Principal Operations Officer, IFC

Panos Varangis is Principal Operations Officer at the IFC, leading the work in agriculture finance for the Financial Institutions Group (FIG). Prior to that, Panos was Global Lead for agricultural finance and agricultural insurance in the Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice at the World Bank Group. Panos also led IFC’s work in advising financial institutions to provide financial services to SMEs, agribusinesses, and farmers. Before joining IFC, Panos served as the Deputy CEO of the Agricultural Bank of Greece and in various positions at the World Bank.


Leesa ShraderLeesa Shrader | Director of the AgriFin Accelerate and AgriFin Digital Farmer Programs, Mercy Corps

Leesa Shrader is Director of the AgriFin Accelerate and AgriFin Digital Farmer Programs at Mercy Corps. Ms. Shrader joined AgriFin from CGAP, where she served as the Senior Digital Financial Services Expert for Asia. She has over 25 years of global experience working in financial inclusion, agriculture, and technology for development with leading banks, mobile network operators and development institutions such as the World Bank, GIZ, and Women’s World Banking.

Chris Emmot Chris Emmott | Previously Product Portfolio Manager at Fenix international

Chris Emmott led the development of Value Added Services at Fenix International (now Engie Energy Access) and has spent the past seven years developing new products to solve the challenges of energy access and financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Chris is currently the Lead Product Manager for digital financial services at Paga, Nigeria’s leading mobile money provider.

Kervin BwemeloKervin Bwemelo | Country Director for Tanzania, myAgro

Kervin Bwemelo is the Country Director for myAgro in Tanzania and a highly effective social operational leader with core competencies in leadership, problem-solving, and project management. Prior to joining myAgro, he worked with Zola Electric as the Head of Operations in East Africa and in the banking industry with Access Bank Tanzania, focused on MSME customers.

Sharon NjavikaSharon Njavika | Creative Lead, Dalberg, Kenya

Sharon Njavika is a Creative Lead at Dalberg Design based in the Nairobi studio. She applies an integrated design practice that borrows elements of behavioural science, Human Centred Design (HCD) and qualitative research to creatively solve challenges within the development sector, leading some of Dalberg Design’s integrated practice initiatives. Prior to joining Dalberg Design, Sharon worked as a senior associate at The Busara Center For Behavioral Economics in Nairobi, Kenya.

Jeremiah Lwebuga Jeremiah Lwebuga | Digital financial services and Agri-value chains specialist, Strategic Impact Advisors 

Jeremiah Lwebuga is a digital financial services and agri-value chains specialist at Strategic Impact Advisors. He leads the agri-value chains digital and financial inclusion efforts, supporting organisations unlocking enduring value for millions of underbanked customers, particularly women in agriculture. He has over 10 years of experience supporting organisations to address challenges and opportunities related to women smallholder farmers’ financial inclusion. Prior to SIA, he was a Country Director at ARED in Uganda.

Toshiaki OnoToshiaki Ono | Senior Financial Sector Specialist

Toshiaki Ono is a senior financial sector specialist at the World Bank where he supports various lending projects and analytical work to promote access to finance in the agriculture sector mainly in Africa (Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia) and Asia & Pacific (India, PNG, and Samoa). Prior to joining the World Bank, Mr. Ono held several positions at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) where he worked for agriculture finance and agribusiness development projects in South Asia and Africa.

Rachel Sberro-Kessler Rachel Sberro-Kessler | Financial Sector Specialist 

Rachel Sberro-Kessler is a Financial Sector Specialist for the World Bank Group, working in financial inclusion, agricultural finance, digital finance, and the financing of catastrophic risks. Rachel has supported countries In Africa, Latin America and Asia in the implementation of public policies favorable to agricultural finance and the establishment and evaluation of agricultural insurance projects. Prior to the World Bank, she also worked with the microfinance investment fund ResponsAbility and PlaNet Finance India.

Asuka OkumuraAsuka Okumura | Operations Officer, Agriculture and Food Global Practice

Asuka Okumura is an Operations Officer for the Agriculture and Food Global Practice of the World Bank. Her focus areas are responsible and sustainable agribusiness, agrifinance, and disruptive ag-technology. She supported several digital finance initiatives in Asia and Africa to provide access to finance for smallholder farmers. 


Nathan Were Nathan Were | Operations Officer, IFC Agribusiness

Nathan Were, Operation Officer with the IFC Agribusiness unit in Nairobi, provides advisory services to off-taking companies in order to strengthen their supply chains and improve production and productivity of smallholders. With over 12 years of experience in rural and agricultural finance and digital financial services, he is a faculty member at the Boulder Institute of Microfinance and previously worked with CGAP and FINCA. 

Clara Colina Clara Colina | Program Manager, Mastercard Foundation Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab

Clara Colina is Program Manager for Mastercard Foundation’s Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab. She has over 10 years of experience supporting foundations, civil society organizations and corporations to address the challenges and opportunities related to financial inclusion, women, agriculture and food security, and ICT for development. Prior to the Learning Lab, Clara was a Project Manager at Dalberg Advisors and started her career at Bain & Company.

Aletheia DonaldAletheia Donald | Economist, Africa Region Gender Innovation Lab

Aletheia Donald is an economist working at the Gender Innovation Lab within the World Bank’s Africa Chief Economist Office. Her current research focuses on identifying and addressing gender-based constraints through the analysis of development project impacts and improving the measurement of their outcomes. Before joining the World Bank, Aletheia was a Research Fellow at Harvard’s Evidence for Policy Design and Head of Research for the NGO Empower Dalit Women of Nepal. 

About the Financial Services Providers

Digifarm in Kenya
In 2016, mobile Network Operator Safaricom formed a partnership with Mercy Corp’s Agrifin Accelerate (AFA) program, a Mastercard Foundation funded initiative. The aim of the partnership was to leverage the M-PESA platform and communications services to transform the agricultural sector and to improve the lives of farmers.  From this partnership emerged Digifarm, digital platform which offers smallholder farmers access to a suite of services including: access to farm inputs, agronomic advice, market access and access to finance. In 2018, when the World Bank Technical Assistance started, DigiFarm has registered 1 million farmers, but only 36% of registered farmers were women.

Fenix in Uganda
Fenix is an off-grid solar home system (SHS) provider that offers a “lease-to-own” or “pay-as-you-go” kit in Uganda. Over the past 8 years, the company has seen rapid and impressive growth. Over 600,000 customers and 2.5 million people using Fenix products across 6 markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the time of the project, the flagship product was ReadyPay Power (now Fenix Power),  which can be used by households for a wide range of energy needs. To access the SHS, customers pay a deposit upfront and the balance for the product can be repaid digitally over the course of 12-30 months. This payment data became a powerful source for credit scoring, which Fenix has used to offer credit products. Fenix has been bought by Engie in 2020 and has now become Engie Energy Access.

myAgro in Tanzania
myAgro is a social enterprise operating in West Africa. The company has developed a layaway savings program that enables smallholder farmers to save for agricultural inputs such as seed, fertilizers and tools to improve their productivity by using a prepaid scratch card model. The service also includes the delivery of agricultural inputs and agronomic training for farmers as input packages. Farmers can save to purchase input packages for the next planting season by purchasing myAgro scratch cards at village stores. In 2018, when the World Bank technical assistance started myAgro reached 50,000 farmers in Mali and Senegal and was about to start operations in Tanzania.