Affordable housing

Inspiring inclusion through women’s access to financial services and products

March 11th, 2024

Positioning women at the centre of inclusive finance benefits women, their households, their communities, and the whole economy.

FSD Kenya’s ‘real economy’ work has demonstrated insights about challenges that women face in accessing finance,  developed and implemented interventions to address those challenges.

Health finance

According to the Kenya Household Health Expenditure and Utilisation Survey (KHHEUS) 2018, the cost of healthcare services, distance to facilities, and the quality of care are the main barriers to seeking healthcare by women and households in Kenya. This is particularly the case for lower-income Kenyans, especially women.

For at least one out of every ten Kenyans (13.2%), the local pharmacy is the first point of contact with the healthcare system. This makes pharmacies an important healthcare provider to women given their limited mobility and disproportionately lower income levels. The pharmacists provide both consultation and medication to their clients.

Yet, most of the smaller pharmacies typically located in residential areas proximate to these low-income women are not able to stock the right types and quality of healthcare products because they cannot access appropriate financing.

FSD Kenya has partnered with Kasha, a platform for last-mile access to health and household goods, to develop and trial a trade credit solution for these small pharmacies which have limited access to credit from the larger pharmaceutical and health products suppliers. To date, the pilot has serviced over 620 orders equivalent to KShs 14.3m to 102 pharmacies, with an average basket size of KShs 23,000.

Besides prioritising products for women and girls, 36% of these pharmacies are women owned or managed. This partnership is helping advance women’s financial inclusion and access to quality healthcare.

Agriculture and processing finance

As the financial inclusion gender gap in Kenya narrows, there remains a lot to be addressed in terms of smallholder women farmers’ access to formal credit which is still low. In fact, even when smallholder women farmers can access credit, it is often of lower ticket size, short tenure and costly, thereby, not as suitable in terms of capital use efficiency.

FSD Kenya has over the last year carried out a deep dive study on Farmers’ Service Centres in partnership with Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) to understand the business model, segmentation, organisation, with a specific focus on those owned by women and an overall objective of embedding finance and digitisation within the FtMA ecosystem.

This study broadly reveals that while women still face constraints leveraging immovable assets, e.g., land as collateral to access credit, they have, against all odds, identified niches within the agricultural market system that better fit their needs and preferences and, in fact, do generate comparable income, if not more, to their male counterparts.

Also, over the last year, FSD and Digifarm Kenya Limited have been working on addressing potential gender biases endemic to credit scoring and lending methodologies in the agriculture sector leveraging the financial behaviours and contributions of women which are not usually adequately captured in the model(s). In addressing gender biases as pertains credit scoring, Digifarm seeks to leverage best predictors of creditworthiness for women over existing credit score variables.

Insights such as these, give us a glimpse on avenues for design and integration of women focused financial services best fitting their uniqueness. The resultant solutions catalyse the financial system to trigger systemic change for women stakeholders, traders and processors in agriculture and processing market system.

Affordable housing finance 

FSD Kenya has partnered with Kenya Women’s Microfinance Bank (KWFT) to support women’s access to appropriate financial solutions that will enable improved access to decent and affordable shelter with associated infrastructure/services financial products.

Given that women comprise 98% of KWFT’s borrower base which is spread across Kenya, and that KWFT’s housing loans have a 98% repayment rate, there is demonstrable demand for KWFT’s product portfolio.

KWFT’s housing portfolio comprises various solutions for incremental housing improvement to enhance the borrower’s house or cooking, lighting, water storage and sanitation facilities and has a high repayment rate.

FSD Kenya’s support to KWFT has enabled the bank to integrate its housing portfolio with a customised app designed by iBUILD to track loan usage by being able to take geotagged pictures of the home improvement project before, during and after the loan is disbursed and utilised. The app will also collect data on social performance metrics for borrower at a household level, seeking to capture if and how housing improvements can enhance the borrowers’ overall wellbeing.

FSD Kenya has also supported KWFT to create an environmental social and governance policy, create an individual risk-based pricing and to develop a predictive default tool using Syntellects machine learning technology.

All these various tools will support KWFT’s journey to integrate more technology into their operations to enhance efficiencies and use data to support their longer-term fundraising from blended finance sources which align with KWFT’s 3P policy of people, planet and profit.

These examples of FSD Kenya’s work demonstrate the efforts being made towards positioning Kenyan women at the centre of inclusive finance! Happy International women’s day 2024.

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