Data Collection in Burkina Faso
After the launch of the Transparent Pricing Initiative in Burkina Faso in July 2010, I returned to work directly with the MFIs on the data collection process.
Before visiting the MFIs, I first met with the network APIM-BF, one of our partners in the country. They gave me some guidance and useful information for a successful visit, including how to contact certain MFIs and who to meet with.
I met with more than 20 MFIs in two weeks of work! Most had locations in Ouagadougou, which was very convenient. In some cases I visited the MFI offices and was able to collect their product pricing information that day. In other cases the Ouagadougou location was only a head office that did not process or keep records of any loans. These situations were more complicated because some of the information I needed, in particular repayment schedules, was spread out between different branch offices around the country. In order to get the data I needed, the head office had to coordinate with many different branches. Although this was time consuming, I was grateful for their cooperation.
I appreciate the MFIs in Burkina Faso in general. They all did their best to give me their data, calling all their branch offices and asking them to send repayment schedules. Some drove for hundreds of kilometers to bring me the repayment schedules directly, and worked with me on the data submission well into the night.
Despite this dedication, there were some challenges in collecting the data. One of the biggest problems was the limited internet access. This was especially difficult for MFIs outside of Ouagadougou. Scheduling meetings was a lot more effective when I called instead of emailing. If I had not come to visit, bringing with me the necessary files for data collection, many MFIs would have had to travel into the city for internet to download the files from the MFTransparency website. Other MFIs said they were not sure how to complete the data collection tool, so it was good that I was there to help them.
When MFTransparency collects product pricing data, we ask for loan samples given to real clients. We prefer that these loans be active and disbursed within the last three months. In Burkina Faso it was not always easy to find loans that were disbursed recently, since many MFIs have seasonal loans for agriculture. Many of these are disbursed before the rainy season and are paid back after the growing season. During the rainy season, from June to August, many MFIs’ activity slows, along with many of the country’s activities in general. Some MFIs even take holiday during this time.
I know Burkina Faso because I studied at the national university for 2 years, so I was happy to see many of my friends who helped me in this mission. One drove me, free of charge, with his car to two different towns, Kongoussi and Kaya, and also drove me back!
Burkina Faso data collection has taught me lessons about better ways to collect data. Although every country is different, some of these lessons will be helpful for me and my colleagues in the next countries where we work.