Cotonou, BENIN - 

In theory, a consumer in Benin has a number of different choices when it comes to formal, regulated financial services.  He or she can opt for a mobile money account, currently offered by two main providers, that gives them access to their money through their phone, as well as a financial services agent.  A more traditional bank account is also an option, and typically utilized for savings or loans.  And, consumers can use a microfinance institution (MFI), or other non-bank financial institutions which tend to be popular in Benin.   

In actuality, a consumer’s choice could be extremely limited due to non-financial factors that inhibit the uptake of financial services, particularly digital financial services (DFS).  Literacy, numeracy, mobile phone ownership, ability to text, education and “know your customer” (KYC) requirements are real barriers to uptake in the Benin market.  And, these barriers are prohibitive.  Very few Beninese are equipped to take up DFS, even though there is significant interest.   

Currently, 20% of Beninese adults age 15 and over are financially included, meaning they have a registered, formal regulated financial account in their own name.  Financial inclusion comes in near equal parts from banks (8%), mobile money (9%) and NBFIs (9%)[1].  That leaves 80% of the adult population without a formal, regulated financial account, or, un-included. 

The vast majority of the un-included have two things in common; they lack critical factors for being financial included AND at the same time are interested in having an account (net: 70% of the un-included[2]). 

To shed light on the use of DFS, consumer readiness, and potential methods for bringing consumers into DFS, UNCDF-MM4P partnered with InterMedia, a global research consultancy, to execute large-scale customer-facing research in Benin. The objectives of the research are to both build the evidence base surrounding customer behaviors, attitudes and interests, and enable smart, targeted strategy for market stakeholders to develop targeted strategy for recruiting new audiences, including the underserved portion of the market. 

The customer research included two main components; a nationally representative quantitative survey of Beninese adults, age 15 and over, and individual targeted studies focusing on what brings a customer to use DFS.  It also included an up-close look at gender barriers for women.  The targeted studies took the form of focus groups and in-depth interviews (qualitative research) among new DFS users, prospective DFS users and MFI users. 

The research findings are abundant and are being presented in full today, October 6th , by UNCDF-MM4P at the DFS Working Group meeting in Cotonou, Benin. The DFS Working Group provides a platform where government agencies, regulators, Mobile Network Operators, banks, microfinance institutions, aggregators, consumer associations and others stakeholders working in digital financial services in Benin engage for the development of a sustainable DFS ecosystem. As such, the working group provides an ideal forum to share learnings on customer needs and pain points in developing viable products that will drive wide uptake of services.

Among the findings, the research shows that there are critical factors for DFS uptake that are missing from the financial marketplace.  Simply put, consumers aren’t ready even though they are interested. 

Critical factors for DFS uptake


There are six components of readiness for DFS uptake; having a national ID to comply with KYC requirements, numeracy, literacy, mobile phone ownership, SMS texting abilities and education.  

These are considered components of readiness because they correlate with DFS ownership, and tend to be essential for using DFS.  Only two-in-ten (20%) of Beninese have all of these components. 

Literacy, education, mobile phone ownership, and with it the ability to SMS text are the biggest gaps, particularly literacy and SMS capability.  No more than one-half of Beninese have made it past primary school, are literate, or can SMS.  Three-quarters of adults own their own phones, leaving a full 25% without a handset of their own[3]

The gap on these four components of readiness is exacerbated for women. They are most disadvantaged when it comes to literacy/education and SMS abilities, where no more than four-in-ten have any of these.  The gap on mobile phone ownership is not as extreme.  Still, barely seven-in-ten have their own handset. 


Apart from readiness, there’s a separate mobilizing factor: Interest. Consumers have to be interested in DFS and truly internalize it if they are to incorporate it into their lives. A basic desire for uptake, whether it comes from a want or a need, has to be present.

Beninese consumers’ own interest in opening up an account is far greater than their actual ability to open and maintain an account.  Over half of Beninese are “very interested” in learning more about activities enabled by DFS, with an additional 30-40% “somewhat” interested in learning more.  Separately, a third or more of consumers are interested in financial mechanisms that would help them with school fees, loans, lines of credit or savings[4].  

Consumers are interested… but not ready

To best understand the market, researchers analyzed the un-included by both interest and readiness.  Having a combination of the six “readiness” factors would deem an un-included consumer ready, and having interest in using a mobile phone for financial services would qualify someone as “interested.”

Combined, only 13% of Benin consumers who do not yet have financial accounts possess many of the requisite readiness requirements and are also interested.  That’s a small portion of the un-included, and while a worthwhile target for service providers, doesn’t provide a big prospect base. 

Conversely, 70%, the vast majority, of the un-included population lacks DFS readiness, BUT are interested in using their phone for various financial services.  That, opens up a broad potential consumer base if product innovations can get past the readiness limitations in the marketplace. 

Over half of the “not ready and interested” group are women (53%), and six-in-ten (61%) are employed.  The prevalence of women in this group means that product adoption must be sensitive to women’s needs.  And, prevalence of employed suggests that the target group may have some income to manage.  Very few (25%) are aware of mobile money as a concept, or a location of an agent (even though they would like to use their phone for DFS).  That implies that messaging must educate consumers on the dynamics of mobile money.

Only a combined 17% aren’t interested in DFS, therefore suggesting that those in opposition are fairly contained, and marketers have plenty to target before capping out on market potential[5]

What this means for providers

Consumers are up for grabs! To foster DFS readiness in the market, providers need to invest in consumer education and develop alternatives interfaces to overcome low literacy and SMS capability. In the communication strategy, messaging is key: it needs to be simple and speak to the value proposition of mobile money as it relates to customers’ financial interests and aspirations around savings, loans and payments. Grassroots marketing campaigns, brand ambassadors and agents can all play a critical role in onboarding and training consumers on the mechanics of mobile money.

MM4P is committed to support providers through human centric approaches, working with In8motion and PHB Development to better understand customer aspirations and constraints, and accordingly design some products and services that meet their expectations in terms of needs, customer journey and value propositions.



About MM4P

Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a programme launched by UNCDF in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. MM4P provides support to digital financial services in a select group of LDCs to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust digital financial services ecosystem that reaches low income people in LDCs.

For more information, visit or follow @UNCDFMM4P

[1] Source: InterMedia Benin Financial Inclusion Insights for MM4P, December 2015-February 2016 (N=3,042, 15+).  Financial Inclusion defined as having a full-service, formal regulated financial account registered in one’s own name.  Note, some consumers have more than one type of registered account. 

[2] Ibid

[3] Source: InterMedia Benin Financial Inclusion Insights for MM4P, December 2015-February 2016 (N=3,042, 15+). 

[4] Source: InterMedia Benin Financial Inclusion Insights for MM4P, December 2015-February 2016 (N=3,042, 15+). 

[5] Source: InterMedia Benin Financial Inclusion Insights for MM4P, December 2015-February 2016 (N=3,042, 15+).