Director, Frontier Finance - East Africa at Mercy Corps

22 May, 2018





Director, Frontier Finance - East Africa





This position is contingent on funding.

Eastern Africa Nationals are highly encouraged to apply.


About Mercy Corps


Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. 
In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions 
into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. 
Now, and for the future.


Initiative Summary


Drawing on our global experience working at the nexus of humanitarian response and protracted conflicts, Mercy Corps leads the Frontier Finance initiative to solve tough challenges at scale and contribute to cross cutting SDGs.  Mercy Corps will accelerate the delivery of demand-driven, viable business models in fragility-affected regions to ultimately benefit displaced populations and host communities by facilitating private sector providers into targeted markets. We will apply market facilitation principles and expand access to finance businesses supporting/employing these populations, with a focus on digital delivery and bundled services. This will include exploring new partnerships, including blended finance and innovative financing mechanisms. This investment will allow Mercy Corps to test market-based products and partnerships, build/strengthen new partnerships, secure long-term investments and funding, and ultimately build the business case and clear finance models for working with both displaced populations in fragile and frontier markets. We will use a ‘lean’ approach - iterative and incremental to understand the actual needs of different segments of displaced persons, host communities, and businesses.


General Position Summary


The Director, Frontier Finance will be field-focused and will launch and quickly accelerate financial services in fragile and frontier markets, with a focus on displaced populations. The role is to be based regionally focusing on East Africa, while also having a global mandate by providing  input, learnings, advice into other regions and help with global representation.

The senior leadership position will draw on Mercy Corps’ global experience working at the nexus of humanitarian response and protracted conflicts. You will use a market-level approach and a focus on digital channels and related services to impact displaced populations, host communities, and service providers operating in fragile markets. Mercy Corps has initially prioritized scalable market sectors - energy and agriculture - alongside Sharia-compliant financial services. Interventions will ideally be multi-country and cross-border to demonstrate scalable business models and leverage Mercy Corps existing on-ground presence. In East Africa, this will initially include Somalia and the multi-country South Sudan refugee crisis (Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda)

This position will be critical in Mercy Corps’ reaching its commitment to facilitate usage of improved financial inclusion to at least one million displaced persons, relevant host community members, and persons living in fragile environments by 2020. You will use a ‘lean’ approach - iterative and incremental to understand the actual needs of the different segments of displaced persons, host communities, and businesses while simultaneously building a business and evidence case for their engagement.


Essential Job Responsibilities

Strategy and Vision

  • Develop regional strategy and quickly and continually raise funding to capitalize finance solutions, including blended finance, to seed the design and prototyping of financial tools and channels (both digital and non-digital).
  • Set direction and quickly strengthen partnerships at the regional level with payment and technology companies, financial service providers, impact investors, institutional donors, foundations, research institutes, UN agencies, peer organizations, and host country governments.
  • Continually identify new opportunities for strategic partnerships to finance and expand the initiative to understand, and to build on Mercy Corps unique strengths and competitive advantages.
  • Conduct continual landscape analysis of actors and funding in this rapidly evolving sector and communicate/ continuously adjust strategy with respective technical teams.
  • Recognize opportunities for innovative action and create an environment where alternative viewpoints are welcomed.
  • Understand other Mercy Corps programming contexts and objectives in order to identify integration opportunities with Mercy Corps fieldwork.


Technical Advisory


  • Cultivate and manage external partnerships for technical assistance, provide technical assistance, and mentor Mercy Corps country teams and partners, including, but not limited to:
    • Traditional financial services providers (banks, microfinance institutions, Islamic finance providers), trade finance and agricultural actors, as well as digital platforms.
    • Digital ID providers, mobile network operators, money transfer/remittance providers, payments companies, investment funds, ‘pay-as you’ providers, agricultural and energy finance players, and social enterprises.
    • Explore partnerships in peer-to-peer digital payments, diaspora investments, and crowdfunding platforms.
  • Engage with Mercy Corps country teams on market systems data collection processes / systems
  • Coordinate with Mercy Corps’ Program Performance and Quality (PaQ) Unit and Technical Support Unit (TSU) to maximize capacity building strategies, programmatic learning, guidance development, and research opportunities
  • Support program implementation and expansion activities, including partner coordination, pilots, and regional training workshops
  • Conduct field visits to prepare for and manage pilots, capacity building efforts


Thought Leadership, Influence and Representation


  • Ensure Mercy Corps is seen as a critical influencer in financial inclusion for both fragile situations and for displaced populations. Build external visibility on relevant technical areas and lead external representation efforts
  • Capture and disseminate insights from Mercy Corps programming for internal and external communications
  • Maintain productive relationships with internal and external constituents such as private partners, local NGOs and civil society organizations and academic institutions
  • Understand donor pool and contribute to shaping donor views on the evolving context and its impact on Mercy Corps programming


Organizational Learning 


As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve, we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.


Accountability to Beneficiaries


Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically 
to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.


Supervisory Responsibility






Reports Directly To: Regional Director with dotted line to Lead - Financial Services in Crisis/Displaced Populations.

Works Directly With: Deputy Regional Director, Mercy Corps teams at the country, regional and global level, including fundraising, technical support units, research & learning, Innovations Team, and the Social Ventures Team


Knowledge and Experience


  • Relevant Master’s degree preferred.
  • At least 10+ years proven, field-based track record of progressive management/ leadership positions in management consulting, investment, financial services, market systems development in an emerging/frontier market or challenging contexts.
  • Significant experience living and working in a frontier market, preferably in East Africa for a minimum of 5-7 years.
  • Significant experience working in formal and informal financial sectors, especially with digital financial services and experience in at least one of the following: agriculture finance,energy finance , and Islamic finance, , especially in Africa.
  • Exposure to digital Identity conversations as they relate to financial services
  • Strong regional contacts with financial institutions, UN, investors, institutional donors, social enterprises, foundations, and corporations engaged in this sector will be a priority so we can build on existing value and supply chains.
  • Experience with Lean / Adaptive / Agile processes would be a plus.
  • Ability to build partnerships with strong and/or high potential service providers will be key.
  • Proven experience working with individuals and teams to quickly build, test, and scale business models, and jointly identify and prioritize key challenges.
  • Strong organizational skills and a demonstrable track record of results and securing funding, with experience successfully structuring and coordinating a number of relationships and high value projects simultaneously across multiple countries.
  • Proven ability to navigate cross-cultural relationships. A deep understanding of the complexities of the challenges low-income communities face, and the current efforts to solve them.
  • Demonstrated experience applying DCED standards, the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) approach and conducting political and market analysis
  • Fluent in written and spoken English, and ideally Swahili and/or French.


Success Factors


  • Entrepreneurial mindset and ability to build influential partnerships quickly, self motivate.
  • Exceptional project management skills.
  • Customer centric outlook, proven experience with human-centered design thinking and approaches.
  • Highly-developed interpersonal and communication skills including influencing, negotiation and coaching, especially with a market systems mindset.
  • Ability to work across multiple countries and to influence throughout the agency and lead cross-agency learning. Ability to understand incentive structures and engage/persuade senior-level executives and other stakeholders.
  • Cultural knowledge, sensitivity, and respect and ‘Do no Harm’ mindset.
  • A strong empathy with the mission of Mercy Corps.


Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions


This position can be located in East Africa – Kampala (preferred) or Nairobi. The position requires travel at least 40% time to the field where living conditions may be exceptionally rugged or be in volatile environments where security protocols will need to be followed. Team members must be ready to deploy to field environments on short notice in response to any emergency or crisis. When in the field the team member must able to work in remote settings, over weekends and/or evening as required by the schedule, and in settings with limited infrastructure, food options, and living conditions.

Mercy Corps Team members represent the agency both during and outside of work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/temporary assignment to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws and customs, and adhere to MC's policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.

Click here to apply.

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