Social enterprises scale up to fight poverty in Africa, Asia-Pacific

Mar 27, 2013

Zambia's Zoona is among the Business Call to Action partners expanding access to financial services for low income consumers

New York—Hundreds of thousands of low-income people will benefit from expanded access to financial services as a result of new commitments to the Business Call to Action (BCtA), an anti-poverty initiative backed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“By adapting business models to the needs of previously under-served consumers and partnering with international organizations, social enterprises such as these are demonstrating longevity and becoming key actors in tackling poverty,” BCtA Programme Manager Sahba Sobhani said.

“Business Call to Action is excited to support and showcase these unique models of inclusive business, especially given our shared vision as a global initiative that encourages the private sector to help reduce poverty worldwide through market-based approaches.”

In partnership with BCtA, three ambitious social enterprises – Zoona, MicroEnsure and Honey Care Africa – are moving beyond their initial pilot phases and expanding access for low-income people to services such as mobile technology and micro-insurance, and providing income-earning opportunities.

Mobile transactions in Zambia
With 86 percent of Zambians “unbanked,” the vast majority of financial transactions in the country involve the exchange of cash from one party to another. Many people cannot afford bank fees or lack access to a banking branch.

As part of its commitment to BCtA, Zoona—a Zambia-based electronic payments business—will increase access to financial and payment services to 150,000 low-income customers per month by 2015.

In a cash economy, electronic payments are useful only if they can be liquidated, so Zoona is building a cross-country distribution network of Zoona Agents to convert electronic value to cash and vice versa, in convenient, high-traffic areas such as bus stations, markets and shopping centres.

Consumers are able to send and receive money, buy airtime and pay bills at Zoona Agents.

According to the company, access to consumer payment services will increase personal productivity and decrease the many risks associated with cash transfers. 

By 2015, 2,000 Zoona Agents will benefit from enhanced revenue streams from Zoona’s basket of payment products. Zoona also provides these agents with zero percent interest working capital through an innovative partnership with

“We at Zoona believe in the potential of small business entrepreneurs and want to help them grow,” said Mike Quinn, CEO of the Zoona Group. “By combining real-time payment products with innovative working capital support, our Zoona Agents can impact the lives of tens of thousands of low income consumers who rely on them for Easy Quick Safe payments.”

Microinsurance in Malaysia
Some 97 percent of the world’s low-income people lack access to formal insurance services. As the world’s largest dedicated provider of microinsurance products, MicroEnsure currently serves more than four million customers in 13 markets across Africa, Asia and the Carribean.

Microinsurance provides a safety net that keeps people from slipping back into poverty in the event of death or disease.

Through its commitment to BCtA, MicroEnsure will expand mobile-based insurance to 200,000 more low and middle-income consumers in Malaysia and introduce new products such as health insurance.

“For microinsurance to be sustainable, it has to be about massive scale,” commented Richard Leftley, MicroEnsure’s CEO. “For this reason I am most excited about the role that mobile phone networks can play in providing access to millions of people who have yet to have insurance.”

Honey farming in Kenya
In Kenya, where nearly half of the country’s 40 million people are unable to meet their daily nutritional requirements, Honey Care Africa has committed to incorporate 40,000 rural families in its supply chain by 2017 and increase their income by up to 20 percent.

The company will equip honey producers with high-quality beehives, maintenance tools, and expertise while guaranteeing a fair-trade market in which beekeepers can sell their honey. For many farmers, income from honey production means the difference between living above or below the poverty line.

“Smallholder honey production is an important way for poor rural families without many other options to diversify their sources of income. With our fully managed and distributed production model, honey income is possible for all families regardless of geography or overall income status,” Honey Care Africa CEO Madison Ayer said.

“By integrating these production opportunities into Honey Care’s commercial model, our strategic focus is well aligned with BCtA’s mission and we’re pleased to be included.”

Small-scale farmers are likely to see 15-30 percent growth in yield from other crops through increased pollination from healthy bee colonies. Honey Care will also train and integrate some 600 more workers as carpenters, clerks, beehive technicians, and quality control managers.

Notes to editors

Zoona is an electronic payments business that makes such payments in Africa easy, quick, and safe. Zoona is driving ahead with innovative payment solutions in pursuit of our vision of a Cashless Africa. In 2009, Zoona launched under the name “Mobile Transactions” with a Zambia-wide consumer payments service and is now the fastest-growing electronic payments business in Zambia with more than 40,000 money transfers per month.

MicroEnsure is a specialist provider of insurance to the low and middle-income market with more than four million active clients in 13 markets across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The company provides a range of life, health, property and weather index products via a range of distribution partners that include microfinance companies, co-operatives and mobile network operators. For more information please visit or join the conversation at and follow us on Twitter @microensure

Honey Care Africa is an innovative, rapidly expanding Kenyan social enterprise established expressly to increase the income of rural farmers. Honey Care provides a comprehensive suite of services ranging from training and technology to start-up financing and market access.

Business Call to Action (BCtA) is a global initiative that challenges companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for development impact along with commercial success. The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UK Department for International Development (DFID), US Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Global Compact, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the International Business Leaders Forum to meet the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Companies report on progress toward commitments on an annual basis.

Contact information

BCtA: Suba Sivakumaran, +1 212 906-5304
Zoona: Mike Quinn,    +260 976 664 643
MicroEnsure: David Dorey, +44 1242 526 836
Honey Care Africa: Madison Ayer, + 254 203 874 448


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