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Aiming to improve the reach and quality of Agent distribution networks in Ethiopia, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has launched the Cash-in/Cash-Out (CICO) Project.

The project, powered by over a million dollars of support from the Gates Foundation, was kicked off today, April 27, 2023, in Addis Ababa.

CICO, which will run for two years, will focus on several activities. One activity is a CICO bootcamp that will train about 15 service providers, including mobile money providers and their agents, retail banks, microfinance institutions, and smaller financial service providers, in foundational and specialized digital money distribution aspects such as gender intentional design and technology provider selection.

The second activity, a Digital Distributor Incubator, will enable CICO managers and technology firms to test the viability of their ideas to determine valuable business outcomes. Selected service providers (CICO providers and technology firms) with the most viable solutions will be awarded $50,000 and will work with financial service providers to bring their solutions to market. Through this activity, more sustainable solutions can scale faster, offering better services, lowering costs in networks, and limiting the amount of dormancy in agent networks.

Additionally, the project will focus on supporting the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) to expand the automated data collection on CICO and financial services access points as part of financial institutions’ DFS (Digital Financial Services) data delivery.

This aspect of the project will leverage a diagnostic data assessment that NBE conducted in collaboration with UNCDF. The diagnostic assessment covers a broad range of data beyond CICO networks, feeding into the development of an automated solution to enable financial service providers to report accurate and comprehensive data to the regulator effectively.

Ultimately, the data collection and analysis tool will enable the National Bank to monitor progress and gaps toward the objectives stated in the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy. These include conducting trend analysis on fundamental metrics such as the number of agents, distribution of financial service access points, customers, value, and volume of transactions to guide the development of distribution networks or the larger emergence of digital finance and fintech solutions for mass market customers.

“For all activities across this project, we will ensure adequate representation of female participants. We will also highlight the case for sex-disaggregated data for NBE and regulated entities and identify opportunities to disaggregate some data points by gender,” said Endashaw Tesfaye, UNCDF’s Digital Finance Country Lead.

Through this project, UNCDF aims to further deepen its efforts in the ecosystem, having already partnered with private and public stakeholders to develop agent management technologies in Ethiopia and improve digital payment services for humanitarian contexts.


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