The financial well-being of clients is the foundation of the Smart Campaign and its seven Client Protection Principles. Since 2009 it has certified over forty institutions and worked with leaders across the financial inclusion industry to amplify the importance placed on ‘doing no harm’.
As an industry driven campaign, Smart Campaign has engaged extensively with microfinance institutions, networks, investors, regulators and, rating agencies, but has had minimal input directly from clients themselves. To rectify this and to take into account the client’s “literal voice” in the campaign, and by extension the industry, the Client Voices project was born. The research aims to understand and focus on the experiences, concerns and worries of individuals who use microfinance services.
Given the global importance of client protection, geographic diversity was key and four markets were selected: Benin, Georgia, Pakistan, and Peru. Since March 2014, the Smart Campaign and its research partner Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) have conducted desk research and field work in all four markets.
Benin’s Client Voice research includes the voices of over 1,500 current and former microfinance clients to understand the market’s consumer protection challenges. The Smart Campaign selected Benin as the African market for the Client Voices project for several reasons. First was the need for more demand-side research in Francophone West Africa, relative to Anglophone East Africa. The Campaign also believed that the relevance of the Benin findings would likely extend beyond the country itself to the other seven members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) given their operation under a common regulatory regime. Finally, Benin was selected because of the engagement of local stakeholders such as the Consortium Alafia – a 34-member local microfinance association.
From May – October 2014, Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) and its local research partner the Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement en Afrique, Benin (CEDA Benin) carried out qualitative and quantitative research. The quantitative survey reached 1,733 Beninese (1,028 current MFI clients, 526 former clients, and 179 non-clients).
Key client protection risks emerged around the issues of transparency, fair treatment and complaint resolution mechanisms. Addressing these concerns requires a market-level approach that takes into consideration the unique role regulators, the MFI industry, and clients themselves each must play. This report contains the results of the initial qualitative research, the follow-up quantitative survey and the final country report which weaves both pieces together. In addition, the report contains a link to the raw, anonymised data from the quantitative survey along with the survey instrument, so that fellow researchers and client protection data wonks can work with and draw their own conclusions.
You can access the Benin report here.