This post originally appeared on The Guardian here. Reposted with permission.
Women’s World Banking and Nigeria’s Diamond Bank take the Lagos markets by storm with a no frills bank account for low-income customers. All photographs: Women’s World Banking.
Balogun market in Lagos, Nigeria is a thriving hub of commercial activity. It draws shoppers and business people from all over West Africa to trade almost every commodity imaginable.
Women working in the markets of Lagos share the same challenge as women around the world – they’re time starved. Women’s World Banking found, on top of juggling household duties and running a small business, most market women commute. Vendors, like Ngozi Nnorom above, won’t leave their stalls for more than 10 minutes for fear of losing business.
Six days a week, Christiena Anya travels to and from work for two or more hours each way. She arrives at the market by 5am, and leaves at 5pm. Though she needs a safe place to save money to support her two children, finding even more time to visit a bank branch is impossible.
Aro Sekinotu has been selling head scarves in Balogun market for 10 years. Like many women in the market, she hardly noticed the large commercial bank just steps from her stall. She did not think such a large bank would serve her as a client.
To serve thousands of women like Ngozi, Christiena and Aro working in the markets of Lagos, Women’s World Banking and Diamond Bank, with support from Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) and Visa, set out to create a commercially-viable savings product tailored to the busy lives of these low income women.
In March 2013, Diamond Bank rolled out the Beta savings account, which requires no minimum balances and has no fees. Agents, called “Beta Friends,” provide financial education, and visit women in their market stalls to conduct transactions with a mobile app. Customers receive immediate confirmation, which validates the transaction.
Shadiat Kareem, a 29-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor, recently opened a Beta savings account. Although her vegetable stall is 200ft from a Diamond Bank branch, this is her first ever savings account. Shadiat’s account allows her to deposit and withdraw money at no charge without leaving her market stall and losing customers.
Carol Onijeachownam’s “Beta Friend”, Lola, visits her almost every day, and Carol does her best to save every time Lola visits. Frequent visits encourage women like Carol to more regularly save instead of spend.
Ime Akpan Issacs started her business three years ago with only 5,000 NR (US$31). She now sees her Beta Friend regularly, making deposits of 1,000 NR a day (US$ 6). Ime uses her savings to help support her husband and seven children. She hopes to fund her children’s education, so they have opportunities beyond the market.
To date, Diamond Bank has opened more than 100,000 BETA accounts, opening up a world of financial opportunity for some of the hardest working women in in Nigeria.
Visa is a proud supporter of this initiative. To learn more about Visa’s financial inclusion work, please click here.
Content provided by Visa.
This content previously appeared in the Guardian’s Global Development Professionals Network Financial Inclusion hub.