• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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Africa’s most impactful financial inclusion programme: Why GEEP works


GEEP is beyond a social good. It is a matter of economic security. It is a more direct effort of the federal government to break the multi-decade jinx of economic growth without shared prosperity.


According to studies, MSMEs (predominantly informal microenterprises) contribute 76 percent of Nigeria’s GDP and 60 percent of labour. Yet 85 percent of these enterprises cite ‘access to finance’ in their top three challenges, as only 0.4 percent of banking loans in 2017 were lent to this microenterprise segment. GEEP’s beneficiaries are of this segment often-neglected by traditional banks unwilling or unable to handle scale and informality. They are the Nigerians for whom ₦10,000 to ₦300,000 represent a complete turnaround in their businesses and livelihoods. And with the power of biometrics, a BVN as digital collateral, mobile data capture, mobile wallets, and a 4000-strong agent network, GEEP has been able to properly target, document, profile, and deliver credit to 2 million people in this demographic.


GEEP’s achievement – and continued mission – remains to provide access to finance, and sustainable financial inclusion, and to do this at scale. The programme is making good on this agenda. Recently, it was awarded the most impactful financial inclusion programme in Africa at the African Bankers’ Award. It also gained recognition at the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women, where the executive director of the Micro Enterprise Division of the Bank of Industry, Toyin Adeniji delivered a presentation which showed how GEEP is being deployed using technology and how beneficial it has been for empowering women.


Since its inception in 2016 GEEP hasserved and strengthened 4,084 cooperatives with GEEP loans nationwide, enabled the creation of over 1.4 million new mobile wallets, and 350,000 new bank accounts, provided job for over 5000people who are now GEEP agents nationwide, and, thus, expanded agency banking. Over 55.41 percent of beneficiaries are women, and the programme has footprint across all 774 local governments across the 36 states and the FCT.


GEEP has proven to be a sustainable model for driving financial inclusion and ensuring easy access to affordable capital in Africa; here are a few reasons why GEEP works:


Last Mile Focus driven by largest agent network in Africa


The majority of GEEP beneficiaries have not used financial services before; see going to the bank as very expensive inconvenience, and have a natural aversion to technology. Bearing this in mind, GEEPuses market cooperatives and field agents as an acquiring structure. Every single day, over 5,000 agents go to the markets across the 774 LGAs across Nigeria to register petty traders at their point of trade. This has enabled GEEP register over 7 million MSMEs in Nigeria; over 2 million of whom have benefitted from the GEEP loans. It has also allowed the program gain scale; visiting over 1600 markets since inception.


Extensive KYC and data validation via mobile forms


GEEP agents are equipped with proprietary application that enables full registration and capture of applicant data e.g. biodata, information on the market, nature of trade, GPS coordinate of the trade point, association member and all other data that enables credit assessment. Data on every captured beneficiary is delivered to Bank of Industry real time to enable verification, appraisals and credit assessment.While captured beneficiary data go through several points of verification within the system and against connected third party data sources, the beneficiaries only involvement is a call from one of GEEP’s 120 GEEP call center representatives to confirm their profile details.


Mobile Wallet, Bank Account Disbursements and automatic loan booking


There is no need for further documentation; every verified applicant who doesn’t have a bank account immediately has a mobile wallet created for them.Disbursements are made into the bank accounts or mobile wallets. This allows every loan disbursed to be booked automatically on a core banking system that is plugged to all commercial banks in the country. Consequently, every loan given out on the programme can be traced to a beneficiary involved in a known trade, at a known location, within a known market association, cooperative or farming cluster.GEEP works with mobile wallet operators and all banks to ensure seamless disbursements.


Ubiquitous repayment options and automatic qualification after repayment


GEEP makes it easy for beneficiaries to repay the loans by breaking it down into weekly repayments (for marketmoni and Tradermoni loans) or allowing farmermoni beneficiaries pay during the season of harvest. Beneficiaries can walk into any bank in the country and make repayments the same way they make utility bill payments.

GEEP also developed repayment scratch-cards for beneficiaries much farther away from banks. Beneficiaries purchase the cards in their local markets and load them as they would a Telco recharge card. This immediately credits their loan account. Also,when beneficiaries take a loan and pay back, they automatically qualify for the next higher amount. Each new loan requires simply dialling a USSD code. Disbursements happen in minutes into their mobile wallets or bank accounts.



GEEP has leveraged partnerships to scale. The Bankers’ Committee, a body that represents all commercial banks in Nigeria donated phones to the program. These phones have been given to qualified beneficiaries who didn’t have phones and thus would have been unable to participate in the program.  Airtel also donated free sim cards to go with the phones. Good partnerships with other ecosystem players: all commercial banks in the country, over 1600 market leaderships, over 4000 market cooperatives and farming clusters, and several technology companies have enabled the smooth implementation of the program.



Strong governance framework, operational control, and ops embedded monitoring and evaluation


With a fully functional operations control center and a team of analysts and behavioural scientists, GEEP embeds consistent monitoring and evaluation into its operations to ensure full program efficiency, and proactive issue resolution. It also has a robust governance framework that involves the Micro Enterprises Division of the Bank of Industry, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, the judiciary, the Central Bank, and the presidency through the office of the Vice President, and the National Social Investments Office. Consequently, GEEP’s operations follow a well-structured reporting framework to enhance transparency and national character.



Odinaka Anudu