Agents of Change

Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Money in East Africa

A human-centered design approach

In 2015, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and partnered to improve mobile money for low-income people in East Africa using Human-Centered Design. Over 1.5 years, is partnering with innovative organizations, conducting research to deeply understand customers, designing and testing new solutions, and bringing digital financial offerings to market. We’ve already begun working with Airtel and Vodacom in Tanzania, as well as other innovative organizations like BimaAFYA. Read more...

Agents as a Guide to Digital Financial Services

Mobile money has tremendous potential to help East Africans rise out of poverty. And while the industry has seen impressive growth, many customers are not actively using mobile money or moving beyond basic “send and receive” to realize the promise of financial inclusion.

Why? Mobile money today is hard to use and prone to errors. Many customers rely on agents to help them navigate the complexity. In Uganda, 74% of customers reported handing over their phone to an agent for mobile-money activities, according to a national survey commissioned by (read more). The industry considers these over-the-counter transactions a barrier to customer self-use. But time and again, we’ve seen that the leap to digital is especially hard for low-income customers.

What if agents—the network of human touchpoints already deployed at scale—had the power to guide, support, and influence the customer’s experience of the mobile financial services? We see this as an important first step to empower customers to use mobile money on their own.

We’re already starting to see the signs of agent-based growth. Data analysis by suggests that the more a customer uses an agent, the larger the transaction size becomes. For one mobile-money provider in Tanzania, transactions are on average 22% larger on a customer’s 10th visit to the same agent per month. It jumps to 36% larger by the 20th visit. This inspires us to think about new ways to build on the relationship between customers and agents.

No one knows customers better than agents. Agents are more than transaction enablers. They’re the face of mobile money, and we must rethink their role in the ecosystem.

Join us in the journey towards leveraging the agents of today and unlocking the agents of the future. We’re excited to share our program and work thus far thinking about the future of DFS in East Africa with you.