MiKashBoks is one of the 4 fintech products selected in the initial cohort of the Bank of Sierra Leone’s (BSL) Regulatory Sandbox Pilot Program.
In its quest of enhancing financial inclusion in the country under the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion 2017-2020, BSL has created an experimental framework where selected fintechs would be allowed to test their products in the market. Successful fintech products and services, especially in fragile economies, require the correct mixture of market innovation and regulatory oversight, including sufficient KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) laws. The Sandbox environment would allow innovative fintechs to refine their products and market plans while also allowing BSL to understand what regulations would need to be enacted for these new services in order to protect the interest of the customers.
After a rigorous selection process, MiKashboks has been granted permission by the central bank to conduct a pilot in the country to test out and improve its business plan. We are excited at the opportunity of working with the central bank, financial institutions and farmers to enhance financial security amongst the underserved people of our country.
MiKashBoks, a commitment savings device that allows farmers to save via mobile money to purchase crop inputs, has partnered with the two leading mobile network operators in Sierra Leone, Africell and Orange, to offer its services to farmers across the country.
Our aim is to create MiKashBoks as a network agnostic platform that is easily accessible to small holder farmers across the country. At the same time, we also envision to create a platform that can strengthen the liquidity of the mobile money ecosystem in the country. A major reason for the low adoption of mobile money in Sierra Leone is the absence of relevant services that can be consumed via people’s mobile money wallets. As a result, most people cash out of the ecosystem as soon as they receive a transaction in their mobile money wallets. Via MiKashBoks, we want to create awareness amongst the farming population in Sierra Leone to view and use their mobile money wallets as savings instruments. This way, we want to move people away from relying on cash as the only form of savings, and to inculcate a savings culture amongst small-holder farmers to make them financially independent.
MiKashBoks would be integrated with the mobile money ecosystems of both Africell and Orange, and would truly be a game changer in the evolution of the digital financial service landscape in the country. We also hope that this would usher into an era of more cross-platform mobile money services that are easily accessible to the end users, irrespective of the mobile network operator they use.
MiKashBoks has completed its first product design sprint. The aim of this sprint was to validate the insights that the team gained from its desk research and extensive stakeholder analysis that it conducted in the agriculture sector in Sierra Leone. Our team conducted an immersive ethnographic study with small-holder farmers in the district of Port Loko to better understand their financial needs and the challenges that they faced in increasing their crop yield. The team also validated and improved upon on the major workflows that the application would be using, including the process by which alerts about upcoming payments would be sent to the farmers, the steps in signing up a new farmer to the platform, and the method used by a farmer to use their savings to purchase crop inputs.
Some of the key findings that the team gained from the design sprint are as follows:
- Despite rising trends in mobile phone and mobile money adoption in the country, mobile phone and mobile money usage is still low amongst the targeted end users
- Any agri-tech innovation should focus on more value added crops instead of catering to widely planted crops which are already heavily subsidized by the government
- To ensure widespread adoption amongst people at the base of the pyramid, any tech-based intervention should have the maximum number of human touchpoints
The design report in full can be accessed here