Perspectives: “Agtechs and fintechs are key partners in improving financial inclusion for farmers and agribusinesses,” Lisa Chassin, GSMA

In this edition of Perspectives, Lisa Chassin, Insights Manager – AgriTech at GSMA Mobile for Development (GSMA), tells SAFIN about how digital innovations can close the financial inclusion gap for farmers and agricultural enterprises, and how they can be further supported to reach scale. The Perspectives interview series highlights emerging issues in the area of agri-SME and smallholder finance from the perspective of practitioners and thought leaders from within and outside the Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network (SAFIN)

Agri-techs and fintechs have generated a lot of interest in recent years for their role in facilitating financial inclusion. Please tell us how you see their roles evolving in the future, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Agritechs and fintechs have emerged as important contributors to financial inclusion in the agriculture sector, allowing payments, credit, insurance and supply chain finance to reach farmers in a seamless way. As these innovative companies continue to evolve and mature, I see their roles expanding and becoming even more critical in the future.  They can make a difference in one key area — the development of innovative credit scoring models that leverage alternative sources of data. By leveraging data such as farm-level information, satellite imagery, weather patterns, and digital transaction histories, fintechs and agritechs can support more accurate and inclusive credit assessment tools. This will enable financial institutions to better understand the risk profiles of smallholder farmers and extend credit to previously underserved segments of the agricultural community.

I also expect that agritech and fintech companies will increasingly harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance smallholder farmers’ access to financial services. For example, AI-driven models can be used to predict crop yields and income, providing valuable insights for lenders and insurers. This predictive capability can help mitigate risks and unlock new opportunities for financial service providers to tailor their products to the specific needs of farmers.

GSMA has been working closely with agri-techs to improve their investment readiness and approach investors. What do they tell you about their constraints in raising capital and reaching scale?

GSMA AgriTech research reveals a significant funding gap that hinders the growth of agritechs, stemming from limited availability of local capital, a scarcity of institutional investors in the agritech sector, and difficulties in attracting large-scale investments. Through our work with agritechs in the GSMA AgriTech Accelerator, we’ve identified several key challenges they face in raising capital.

Agritechs struggle with a lack of access to investor networks and a limited understanding of their own funding needs based on growth stage and business model. They also find it challenging to determine appropriate company valuations and effectively negotiate with potential investors. Compounding these challenges, investors often find that agritechs and fintechs struggle to articulate a clear value proposition and financial ask.

To help our programmatic partners overcome these barriers, GSMA AgriTech provides targeted one-on-one investment-readiness support and facilitates peer learning. Later in the year, we will publish a toolkit that offers practical recommendations to enable agritechs become more investment-ready and access the capital they need to scale their impact.

SAFIN and IFAD published a study mapping the vibrant agri-tech and fintech landscape in East and Southern Africa, which highlighted some promising business models and the role of concessional capital in this space. Do you see any parallels of its key findings in the other regions where you work?

GSMA AgriTech operates across Africa and Asia and I see several parallels with the study on East and Southern Africa. We’ve observed that de-risking capital is critical to scaling agritech and fintech business models that target smallholder farmers. The GSMA Innovation Fund for the Digitisation of Agricultural Value Chains showed that digital agriculture solutions take at least two years to begin scaling and for smallholder farmers to accept and use a service repeatedly. During this period, de-risking capital can help agritechs test services and engage intensively with farmers.

Another finding that resonates with us is the need for farmer-centric digital agriculture solutions tailored to user needs. We’ve also observed a degree of reluctance from traditional financial institutions to fully embrace new technologies and business models, such as alternative data and credit scoring methodologies. While we’ve worked with some pioneering institutions like MiBank in Papua New Guinea, the majority of them still struggle to fully recognize the value proposition of these innovative approaches.

In your view, what would increase the adoption of digital innovations by financial service providers who are front-line lenders to agribusinesses and farmers?

To drive widespread adoption of digital innovations among financial service providers, it is crucial to showcase successful examples of pioneering institutions, such as MiBank in PNG, that have effectively implemented these innovations. However, the scarcity of such examples highlights the need for targeted support to encourage more agri-lenders to take the leap. Providing de-risking mechanisms, such as grants and concessional capital, can incentivise early adopters to implement digital innovation, which in turn will create more evidence for demonstrating the practical benefits, encouraging other providers to follow suit.

In addition to de-risking mechanisms, it is essential to offer comprehensive training and capacity building to bridge knowledge gaps among agri-lenders. These efforts should focus on educating lenders about the potential benefits of digital innovations, as well as providing practical guidance on how to implement and integrate these technologies into their existing processes.

How can a network like SAFIN most effectively leverage its diverse membership to address the key challenges to increasing investment in this sector?

I think SAFIN would prove most effective by continuing to nurture stakeholder coordination, knowledge exchange and peer-learning through working groups. This could be particularly beneficial to bridge the gap between fintechs, agritechs and financial institutions, which can leverage their innovations, while also connecting them with donors, who can fund the early stage developments of these innovators. The GSMA will be happy to contribute to this effort!


Lisa Chassin, Insights Manager for the AgriTech programme at GSMA

With over 10 years of experience in inclusive finance, Lisa currently leads as Insights Manager for GSMA’s AgriTech programme, focusing on digital solutions for smallholder farmers in LMICs. Her expertise includes designing tailored business models, particularly for women farmers. Previously, Lisa worked across Asia and Africa as a senior consultant at PHB and as a microinsurance specialist with MicroSave. She holds a Master’s in International Cooperation and Economic Development from Sciences Po Toulouse.