Most digital financial services users around the world live in cash-based societies. They may be able to use digital services to meet some of their needs, such as sending money to a family member or getting a small loan, but not others, such as buying produce at the local market. These users require a cheap and easy way to switch between the worlds of cash and digital currency. Local storeowners doubling as cash-in/cash-out (CICO) agents have typically served as this bridge. The CICO services they offer play an essential role in building digital financial services at scale. Yet digital financial services providers have struggled to establish viable CICO agent networks in rural areas, where sparse populations lead to low transaction volumes and weak incentives for entrepreneurs to serve as agents.
Over the past two years, CGAP, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, identified global principles for building viable agent networks in rural areas. We then dug deeper into specific markets that had seen growth in agent networks to better understand how the principles had been applied.
A cross-country look at how policy makers, regulators, and providers have expanded rural agent networks
The following countries have each expanded their rural agent networks despite very different contexts: China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Kenya. CGAP's research reveals three distinct journeys country stakeholders have taken to extend the reach and quality of rural agent networks.
|CGAP's analysis in this December 2020 publication reveal the following distinct journeys country stakeholders have taken to extend the reach and quality of rural agent networks: P2P-led journey, G2P-led journey, and the e-commerce-led journey.||These slide decks serve as a supplement to the CGAP Publication Agent Network Journey toward the Last Mile. Each deck provides detailed information on the journeys in: China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Kenya.|
In the resources below, CGAP provides practical recommendations for how financial services providers, policy makers, and regulators can deploy these six principles all the way to the last mile and expand financial inclusion. Developments in countries such as India and China demonstrate that when the public and private sectors work together, they get the best results.
GSMA's 2017 State of the Industry reports a global total of 5.3 million agents, an impressive sixfold increase over the 886,000 agents in existence just five years ago. However, the bulk of digital financial services (DFS) agents are in urban or peri-urban areas, and research by