What is FIBR?

FIBR (Financial Inclusion on Business Runways) is an innovative R&D project which seeks to demonstrate how smartphones can accelerate and deepen financial inclusion in developing countries. The project identifies small businesses as vital nodes as their rate of smartphone adoption is already much higher than the population as a whole and they interact and transact with a web of low-income employees, suppliers and customers on a daily or regular basis. By focusing on this indirect channel to financial inclusion, FIBR aims to identify and harness the energies, advantages and experiences of new partners in nonfinancial sectors to the challenge of the next generation of financial inclusion initiatives.

Shopkeeper in Accra showing BFA team how he uses smartphone app to run his business

Shopkeeper in Accra showing BFA team how he uses smartphone app to run his business

These partners are themselves businesses or NGOs in the technology or other sectors, who serve small businesses as their clients. FIBR primarily provides technical assistance to these partners in order to promote the digitization of part or all of the their clients’ small businesses using app-based technology; and then support the linkage of these small businesses to a range of appropriate financial services, both for their own purposes as well as linking their employees, suppliers and customers. These end users include substantial proportions of low-income people who have not been included in digital financial services. FIBR does not require that these end users yet have smartphones themselves, although it will be helpful for linkages that a majority in these countries are likely already to have basic mobile phones.

These business-based relationships, such as a shopkeeper extending customer credit, an employer setting aside savings for employees or a club providing micro-insurance to its members represent an untapped, indirect source of financial data about a person. With this data, banks and microfinance institutions, even mobile network operators, can offer a wide range of new financial services to poor customers whom they currently cannot serve directly.
— Mark Wensley, Senior Program Manager, Financial Inclusion at Mastercard Foundation

The FIBR project team will engage with each partner to shape a business plan to build or extend on each partner’s existing approach to clients so as to result in additional financially inclusive products or services. At differing levels of intensity, the broader project team will then engage with the partner to design, develop and roll out the product using agile development approaches comprised of short product testing cycles focused on learning and ongoing innovation to find solutions that work. While FIBR is an R&D project, not intended itself to reach scale but rather to test and explore pathways to scale in the next generation, the project aims to reach 5000 small business clients through its partners, and through them, 15,000 individual employees, suppliers and/or customers.  

FIBR is managed by BFA and is supported by Mastercard Foundation. FIBR launched officially on February 25, 2016 in Accra, Ghana and will be active through end of 2019. FIBR is focused on Ghana and Tanzania.

BFA logo


BFA is a global consulting firm specializing in the development of financial services for low-income people around the world. Our approach is to seek out, create and implement solutions to the challenges faced by low-income people in managing the financial matters that underpin their lives.  We purposefully partner with cutting-edge financial and non-financial institutions that touch the lives of low income customers. In creating solutions, we integrate our deep expertise in customer insights, business strategy, new technology and growth-enabling policy & regulation. Founded in 2006, our clients include donors, investors, financial institutions, policymakers, insurers and payment service providers. BFA has offices in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Nairobi and Medellín. For more information, please visit: www.bfaglobal.com.



The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard International when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.