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EFInA Unveils £2m Fund to Back Innovative COVID-19 Solutions

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Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) has launched a £2 million COVID Fund to support solutions that can mitigate the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on low-income individuals/households and MSMEs in Nigeria.

The fund will support financial service-enabled solutions that enable access to liquidity, healthcare and food.

This grant is funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Announced during a webinar recently, the initiative recognises how COVID-19 has affected businesses globally, turn down existing systems and supply chains, inhibited access to capital or markets due to restrictions and left families struggling to make ends meet.

Research conducted by EFInA and partners in Nigeria has found that many households are experiencing food insecurity, reduced income, and challenges accessing required health services; however, the widespread use of digital financial services can help address these challenges.

Giving the opening remarks, the British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Ben Llewellyn-Jones, said: “the pandemic has affected Nigeria in many ways as evidenced through job losses, increases in prices, and access to liquidity.

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”This is the time to promote innovative digital solutions, and the £2 million COVID Fund represents another response in enabling citizens to access financial services.”

The statement was buttressed by EFInA’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ashley Immanuel, who advocated the need to address existing inequality that may be exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Our scenario analysis shows that innovative digital financial services can strengthen recovery and resilience”, she said.

“The three most pressing needs that we aim to solve with the COVID-19 Fund are access to Liquidity, Healthcare & Food.

”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.”

Speaking during a panel session hosted by EFInA’s Head of Innovation, Mr Dayo Ademola, the Investment Lead at LINKS, Aisha Yakubu Bako stated that many financial institutions require increased access to funds, which has provided the opportunity for organisations such as LINKS to support businesses by providing wage subsidies.

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However, this is not enough, as there is a need to continue to develop innovative solutions that will help de-risk growing businesses.

She also advocated for the need for partnerships with mobile networks who are independent businesses to make cash available through digital transfers and allow faster access to funds.

Other panelists included Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Founder, Lifebank, and Dr. PaulOluikpe, Associate Head, Financial Inclusion Secretariat, CBN, who stated that more disruptive technologies should be encouraged in the country, including products that can pass regulators’ tests so they can be adopted in the market.

“The grant is a £2 million fund to help increase access to credit, enable value chains, increase household access to food and provide solutions to improve access to health care”, said Bunmi Lawson, a Director at EFInA.

“Applicants must have or partner with an organisation that has a proven track record of success for providing digital financial services.

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”We will pay attention to projects that are sustainable, can scale post-funding, and focuses on gender inclusivity. Existing financial service providers can also apply to scale their current operations.”

She further emphasised that projects must provide immediate solutions to the three thematic areas of the funding programme – 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.

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