Mobile Money and the Centre Model: Progress in Malawi

Medha Wilson, Group CEO of MicroLoan Foundation, writes her account of her trip to Malawi last week.

It’s been two months since the MicroLoan Malawi team visited colleagues in Zambia to better understand the centre model. Since then, I’m pleased to report we have implemented the centre model in Malawi, and it is all taking shape just as we’d hoped.

The centre model brings several loan groups of five women together as part of one larger organisation. This is time saving, efficient and enables peer-to-peer support through group lessons and training. Last week, it was my pleasure to visit a client meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi to see the centre model in action. The centre I visited was well-formed, organised, and had appointed centre leaders, giving women more agency in the loan and training process.

I was also thrilled to see mobile money in action, which has been a long time coming! The group were making disbursements and repayments through this channel. During the repayment meeting, some women sought help from centre leaders, MicroLoan Loan & Training Officers, and other group members in making their transactions. This was a fantastic way to showcase the benefits of the centre model.

The mobile money landscape in Malawi is not as advanced as in Zambia or Zimbabwe. In rural areas, mobile money agents are few and far between. Agents also often lack cash float to facilitate all transactions for clients. Nonetheless, I witnessed the MicroLoan team supporting women in Malawi to transact using mobile money – these are huge steps in the right direction. The MicroLoan team track down agents to bring them to the centre meetings. Two agents were used if one did not have sufficient float. This proactive approach and team effort meant that all MicroLoan clients were able to complete their repayments on the day.

Infrastructure is not the only challenge we face in rolling out mobile money. Many women do not own a mobile phone. To combat this, Loan & Training Officers have been working with women to get a registered sim card in their name, so they can share mobile phones by swapping out the sim card.

Mobile money is paving the way for a more efficient form of conducting business both for MicroLoan Foundation, and its clients. It is also a more secure way of transacting, as there are fewer cash transactions overall. We hope to able to replicate this in all our branches in Malawi in the months to come.

Published on: 28/09/2022

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