Increasing Women’s Access to Finance in the Sahel is a Win-Win


From left to right, Ouedraogo Asseta (member of the association Wend Kouni 2 Women) receiving a loan from Maiga Nematou, representative of Caisse Baitoul Maal (CBM). CBM is a microfinance institution and a grantee under the USAID CATALYZE Finance for Resilience (F4R) Activity.

USAID CATALYZE Pay for Results Incentive Model Pays Off for a Financial Cooperative in Burkina Faso

In West Africa’s Sahel region, ongoing political instability, the deepening climate crisis, and the reduced availability and increased prices of key commodities exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, all threaten food security and livelihoods of communities. Access to affordable credit across the agriculture sector in Burkina Faso and Niger helps increase production yields and improve food security through, for example, the timely purchase of agricultural inputs by smallholder farmers, which boosts income generation through sales and permits farmers to meet household food supply needs. Women- and youth-led businesses are a driver for agricultural growth when provided affordable, adequate, and timely financing. However, youth- and women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises (W-SMEs and SMEs) are underserved for a variety of reasons, including traditional societal norms that exclude women and youth, the size and type of the income-generating activity they seek financing for, low rates of asset ownership that banks require as collateral, and biases that suggest they are riskier investments.

Using a Pay-for-Results mechanism, USAID CATALYZE works closely with and provides performance incentives to FIs and FFs that mobilize private capital in target geographic regions and economic sectors, and offers enhanced financial incentives to FFs that lend to women- and youth-led SMEs.

To level the playing field, USAID is working to increase these groups’ access to finance. USAID CATALYZE Finance for Resilience (F4R) mobilizes financing for MSMEs in the agriculture sector, targeting those led by women and youth in areas of the Sahel facing rising violent extremism and food insecurity. CATALYZE F4R strengthens the capacity of financial institutions (FIs) and financial facilitators (FFs) to build market linkages and networks among these important actors and at-risk communities.

In Burkina Faso, USAID CATALYZE F4R partners with the financial cooperative Caisse Baïtoul Maal (CBM), which works in two of F4R’s focus regions (Centre-Nord and Sahel) in Burkina Faso, to identify producers and SMEs in specific value chains (cowpea, small ruminant, and poultry) and assist clients to prepare their loan applications for financing. F4R-trained local FFs assist CBM, which has led to an increase in the number of CBM’s new clients and for them to lend more frequently to W-SMEs, leading to greater efficiency. This also reduces the workload of CBM’s loan officers and the application processing time due to the higher quality of the applications. Once CBM disburses funds, the FFs provide monitoring services until full repayment occurs.

The training and performance incentives from F4R-supported FFs have been critical to CBM’s success as the first financial institution partner to have reached its objectives over the first 12 months of their contract. CBM granted 95% of their credit volume to women, surpassed their $400,000 target by 24%, and have continued to mobilize financing for W-SMEs even after CATALYZE F4R incentives ended, demonstrating the financial sustainability and benefits of lending to women. The F4R incentives allowed CBM to accelerate its expansion into new areas and to be closer to its new clients, further incorporating F4R’s target groups into CBM’s existing business strategy.

Prior to the partnership with F4R, approximately 60% of CBM’s clients in F4R’s focus zone were women. Now, with the F4R partnership, about 80% of CBM’s clients are women in these focus areas.

CBM’s collaboration with F4R also led the FF to expand their service offerings to producers and SMEs in Burkina Faso’s Centre Nord region, where access to financing has historically been limited, especially for those working in the agricultural sector. With CBM granting higher quality loans and working with a network of FFs to monitor those loans, repayment rates were 100% through the end of the grant period. This compared to a repayment rate of just 65% for the rest of CBM’s portfolio.

CBM’s improved performance and increased visibility in the region has helped them to renew financial partnerships worth nearly $2 million. Since partnering with F4R, CBM’s operational self-sufficiency has improved, evidenced by equity growth of 325% and profitability growth of and 24% in a one-year period.

CATALYZE F4R’s Pay-for-Results incentive model has effectively increased the rate of funding to women-owned businesses by 20% in Burkina Faso, an important step to building capacity and growing their businesses for women in the region. Using the pay-for-results incentive model to provide loans to SMEs focused on the agricultural sector in cowpeas, small ruminants, and poultry can lead to greater food security in the Sahel.


USAID CATALYZE, implemented by Palladium, is an 8-year program designed to mobilize $2 billion in private capital for development impact, especially in underserved social sectors and frontier markets across the globe, complemented by a cross-cutting inclusion of gender-lens investing. CATALYZE supports blended finance solutions working with local and international businesses and investors to explore and find commercially-viable opportunities and approaches to creating jobs, developing sustainable social services, tightening and rationalizing supply chains, and advancing inclusive growth. We work across 28 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean, with 190 partners, including financial institutions, business advisory service providers, anchor firms, and job trainers.