PROMEL: Financial inclusion for women in Niger

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Financial inclusion, a crucial aspect of social and economic development, has often eluded women in Niger, where traditional financial system remains predominantly male-dominated. Despite playing significant roles in the local economy, women find themselves excluded form essential financial services. The PROMEL program, however, is taking strides to address this challenge by placing women at the center of its mission for financial inclusion.

Rahamanou Issa, president of the Hakuri peanut processing cooperative in Maradi, shares her journey:

“We are a small solidarity enterprise created with the support of PROMEL. Our group, consisting entirely of women, is dedicated to processing peanuts into oil, paste, cake and other snacks. It all began at the end of 2022 when our group was selected by the program to benefit from its support. After being structured as a scoop (a simplified cooperative organization), we received training in group dynamics and launched our peanut processing business with tutored training and support in small processing equipment.

In addition to this support, the business incubation centers taught us about professional business management and simplified accounting. We were also made aware of the importance of saving, opening bank accounts, and the crucial role of credit in financing our activities. Today, our small business has a bank account, just like the big companies. Previously, we were reluctant to approach financial institutions, not understanding the importance of this step in financing our activities. However, the savings and credit mutual of Anfanin Talaka (Mutuelle d'Epargne et de Crédit Anfanin Talaka) is now an essential partner for us. They understand our needs and are flexible. We have already received two rounds of credit from them.”

PROMEL has successfully included 19 other small women’s peanut processing businesses, accumulating savings of XOF 1 985 625 (CHF 2 900) and accessing decentralized financial services for credit totaling XOF 4 606 250 (CHF 6 727). Swisscontact, commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, implemented PROMEL in the Dosso and Maradi regions of Niger, focusing on financial inclusion as a lever for providing affordable and accessible financial services.

PROMEL collaborates with financial institutions to strengthen their capacity to integrate women-run agri-businesses into their customer base. The program facilitates the analysis of credit needs, preparation of loan applications, and monitors loans granted. Interest rates range from 1.7% to 2% per month, promoting access to credit for women and young agro-entrepreneurs.

In the first quarter of 2022, PROMEL partnered with Mutuelle d’Epargne et de Crédit Asusun Raya Karkara (MEC ARK) for the Dosso region and Mutuelle d’Epargne et de Crédit Anfanin Talaka (MECAT) for the Maradi region. These partnerships involve capacity-building initiatives to integrate credible agri-businesses into their customer portfolios.

To bridge the gap between financial institutions’ offerings and the needs of agri-businesses, PROMEL facilitated discussions, leading to the prototyping of new financial products. Notably, the ‘income-generating activity credit backed by savings mobilisation’ prioritises women’s small businesses, with features like: a maximum loan amount of three times the savings mobilised, an interest rate of 1.7% per month, multiple maturities, advance savings mobilisation of 33%, and joint guarantee.

PROMEL’s holistic approach extends to providing equipment and initiating procedures to improve governance. The program emerges as an exemplary model of financial inclusion for women, offering tools, training, and access to financing to empower women entrepreneurs and foster their development.   

Labour market insertion, Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Local entrepreneurship promotion programme 
The programme objective is to create jobs and income opportunities for women and youth in rural Niger through the promotion of entrepreneurship and facilitating access to markets. In particular, the empowerment of women is to be promoted. This opens up new opportunities for economic and social development of these two border regions that depend significantly on agriculture and industry.