How to respond to the need for financial services in rural areas with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate – case studies from Mozambique

The paper discusses how financial service providers can respond to the need of the rural population in an environment where the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is increasingly high. It is based on action research undertaken in Mozambique with four widely different institutions operating partly or totally in rural areas. The institutions include one microfinance bank, two microfinance institutions (MFIs) and one organisation promoting Accumulating Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs).

Information was gathered through quantitative (surveys) and qualitative market research to understand how the need for financial products and other services are adjusted in areas of high prevalence. The qualitative research used various techniques such as focus group discussions and participatory rapid appraisal techniques. The paper explains which research techniques were most effective to cover issues related to HIV/AIDS without offending or scaring the respondents.

The paper describes how financial services providers can intervene in the fight against HIV/AIDS by linking with health care providers and institutions focusing on prevention. Understanding the needs and expectations of the beneficiaries at different stages of the pandemic is crucial for successful interventions.

The paper also shares findings showing how the various types of service providers can adapt their products and policies to clients’ changing needs. More specifically, we use the example of ASCAS in Northern Mozambique to show how these groups are able to modify their rules according to their circumstances: focusing more on savings or credit, creating mechanisms to cope with emergencies such as death or disease of the client, his/her family or other community members and taking into account specific religious or cultural requirements.

Finally we conclude by sharing some lessons learned from this action research on how financial services providers can undertake to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on their institution and their clients.

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