HKN employs a micro-franchise system in which community-based distributors (CBDs) are recruited, trained and supported by a distribution system to go the last mile to bring quality health promoting products and consumer information to people in rural and underserved communities on a reliable basis. Although HKN’s program has contributed to easy accessibility and availability of products in the communities and lowered end-user cost of these life-saving products to some extent, both the CBDs and HKN have faced some challenges with cash payments and collection.
Most of the CBDs in rural and underserved areas have no savings and low purchasing power. Majority of them are unbanked and so do not have easy access to funds as a result their product ordering practices are erratic and often in small quantities. These practices lead to stock-outs of products which ultimately stifle efforts to ensure continuous access and availability of health protection products, including family planning commodities and others in these areas.
Mobile money is fairly new in Ghana. It is fast, safe, reliable and convenient and has the potential of providing financial inclusion to most people living in rural and underserved areas where HealthKeepers Network operates. It is also capable of lifting many poor people in such communities out from poverty. Mobile money, therefore, presents HKN with an opportunity to train its community based distributors in mobile money system to eliminate financial barriers and improve uptake of products and services.
In May 2015, HKN’s journey from cash to mobile money payments received a major boost from USAID/NetHope Solutions with a nine-month sub-award grant to support its mobile money payments adoption in four selected districts of Ghana to eliminate some of the financial barriers inhibiting access by the CBDs to HKN’s HIV prevention products, short acting family planning methods and other health protection products and services. The four districts selected are West Mamprusi and Tolon districts in the Northern region, Ketu South district in the Volta region and Wassa East district in the Western region.
HKN fully integrated mobile money payments into its day-to-day operations and created awareness on mobile money within its network in several rural and underserved communities. During the pilot project, 164 community-based distributors made up of 115 females and 49 males received training in MM payment system. Currently, over 300 community based distributors have been trained. This has not only eliminated financial barriers for the CBDs to accessing HKN’s life-saving products, but, also made same products available to the community members. It also enhanced flexibility in their payments for family planning products supplied to them. The number of CBDs who used the mobile money services to make payments has increased.
From June 2015 to March 2017, a total mobile money payment of GHC192,820.52 has been made. The payment includes staff members travel per-diems, purchases of airtime, program cost among others. During the same period, mobile money payment of 43,521.45 has been received mainly for products ordered and supplied to CBDs.
In addition, HKN mobile money payment system has provided financial inclusion to some of the CBDs who previously did not have access to financial services. 50 community-based distributors were registered for the first time through HKN’s sensitization and awareness creation on mobile money during recruitment and training sessions.
This success was achieved in collaboration with a number of partners including mobile network operators, banks, implementing partners, community leaders and influencers.[/sd_centered]