Balogun market in Lagos, Nigeria is a jostling, thriving hub of commercial activity, which draws shoppers and business people from all over West Africa to trade in cloth, jewelry and almost every other commodity imaginable. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are here, from street hawkers to foodstuff sellers to wealthy established traders. The commercial banks are also here, drawn by the hum of money in circulation, but they are the first to recognize that only a fraction of the business being done here passes through their accounts. The women and men who run businesses in this market are familiar with banks like Diamond Bank, which has four branches in this market, yet they do not see them as relevant or accessible. Even those who have accounts usually place most of their money in traditional, though more informal, financial tools. In Africa, and in many places in Nigeria, physical proximity to a branch is the most important barrier. However, in Balogun market, and in many urban areas across Nigeria, the distance is emotional instead of physical. Diamond Bank and Women’s World Banking, supported by Visa and EFInA, set out to close this gap by creating an innovative and relevant savings product that crosses the barriers preventing low-income Nigerians from accessing formal financial services.
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