Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) launched a £2 million COVID Fund to support solutions that can ease the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on low-income individuals/households and MSMEs in Nigeria. The grant is funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and will support financial service-enabled solutions that enable that enable access to liquidity, healthcare, and food.
The fund was announced during a webinar on December 8th. The initiative recognizes how COVID-19 has affected businesses worldwide, torn down existing systems and supply chains, restrained access to capital or markets due to restrictions, and left families struggling to make ends meet.
According to research conducted by EFInA and its partners in Nigeria, many households are experiencing food insecurity, reduced income, and challenges accessing required healthcare services; however, the widespread use of digital financial services can help address these challenges.
Ben Llewellyn-Jones, the British Deputy High Commissioner, said in his opening remarks that the pandemic has affected Nigeria in many ways, and evidence can be seen in job losses, price increase, and access to liquidity. He also said that now is the time to promote innovative digital solutions, and the £2 million does just that, representing another response in enabling citizens access financial services.
Ashley Immanuel, EFInA’s Chief Executive Officer, buttressed Llewellyn-Jones’ point. She advocated for the need to address existing inequality that may be made worse by the pandemic. She believes innovative digital financial services can strengthen recovery and resilience. According to her, the COVID-19 fund was set up to solve access to liquidity, healthcare & food. In her words; “We need innovative solutions that provide access to credit, enable income-earning opportunities, facilitate electronic payments, and help people get money more quickly. EFInA seeks to fund solutions that enable access for vulnerable and excluded groups including women and those in rural and northern areas.”
In a panel session hosted by Dayo Ademola, EFInA’s Head of Innovation, Aisha Yakubu Bako, one of the panelists and the Investment Lead at LINKS, stated that that many financial institutions require increased access to funds. This has provided the opportunity for organizations such as LINKS to support businesses by providing wage subsidies. But this is not enough. There is a need to keep developing innovative solutions that will help de-risk growing businesses. Aisha advocated the need the need for partnerships with mobile networks that are independent businesses to make cash available through digital transfers and allow faster access to funds.
Another panelist, Dr. Paul Oluikpe, said more disruptive technologies should be encouraged in the country, including products that can pass regulators’ tests so they can be adopted in the market.
Bunmi Lawson, a director at EFIna, said the £2 million grant is to help increase access to credit, enable value chains, increase household access to food and provide solutions to improve access to healthcare. In her words; “Applicants must have or partner with an organization that has a proven track record of success for providing digital financial services. We will pay attention to sustainable projects, can scale post-funding, and focuses on gender inclusivity. Existing financial service providers can also apply to scale their current operations.”
She emphasized that projects must provide immediate solutions to the funding program’s three thematic areas – liquidity, healthcare, and food, and should be completed between 6 months and 2 years. Other evaluation criteria include the capacity to implement, developmental impact, and innovation.
The application deadline is January 6th, 2021.
To find out more information on how to apply for the fund, click here.
Nigeria in Focus
Population: 202 million (2020)
GDP: 448.12 billion USD (2019)
GDP Per Capita: 2229 USD (2019)