From 2014 to 2018, IFC and the Mastercard Foundation conducted a longitudinal study with nine partner financial institutions (FIs) in seven Sub-Saharan African countries to understand if Digital Financial Services are a viable strategy for these institutions to expand financial access. More precisely, the study explains the strategic objectives of the institutions and describes how they planned and implemented their DFS rollouts. The study aimed at extracting lessons on implementing internal change management, as
well as measuring the impact DFS has on business growth, sustainability, outreach and adoption. The study is unique as it identifies valuable benchmarks on DFS implementation that fit the banking context, which differs from many studies in the existing literature that focus on MNO-led DFS implementations. It serves as a guide for target-setting and strategic engagement of FIs seeking to implement or scale digital channels. The study also differentiates itself by focusing on many institutions over multiple years and countries.
By the end of the study period, the participating institutions had overcome many external and internal challenges and were successfully running their digital channels. Channel maturity varied among institutions. Five of the financial institutions expanded their original DFS scope to explore other service offerings. Lessons from the study centered around four main themes: strategy and business case, staff buy-in, data, and DFS management. The research team also documented the impact of DFS on outreach and banking operations.