To invest in the clean energy, many in the Adamawa communities need financial support from the bank. Some people do not have bank accounts or are unable to borrow the money that might allow them to raise their standard of living and improve their health. Many are farmers living in remote locations with low literacy levels.
“Financial education is very low. Communities need assistance in understanding financial terms and procedures, how finance can benefit them and what it means to take out a loan. For many of them, entering a bank is an intimidating experience,” observes Yekbun Gurgoz, Coordinator of the Finance Initiative at the Coalition.
That, of course, is one of the major factors behind the Coalition’s cooperation with Standard MFB. Though the bank had less knowledge of the cooking and lighting needs of the community before the project, it regularly gathers information about its customers’ financial concerns through local forums.
This established relationship and familiarity means customers are receptive to innovation. “These communities trust us. We have client associations in each of the almost 300 villages where we operate. These are called community centres and have monthly meetings with our outreach teams,” explains Francis Vazheparambil, chief executive of Standard MFB.
Extending that dialogue to include renewable energy access is one of the achievements of the Coalition’s initiative. Through the bank’s existing market channels, the Coalition was in a good position to probe typical energy access and evaluate the potential for energy equipment purchase. That intelligence in turn also informed appraisals financed by the Coalition on microloan designs and technology requirements. This underpinned the Coalition’s technical assistance that improved the bank’s understanding of clean cooking and lighting technology.