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New Report Finds Women Are An Underserved Market For Mobile Financial Services

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Daryl Collins, co-author of the seminal work, Portfolios of the Poor, and a director at Bankable Frontier Associates, said: "This study has shown that low-income women undertake complex financial management for their households using a set of often sub-standard instruments. Women often work with high frequency, low value cash flows, which indicates a good match between the services they need and the opportunity for the mobile financial services industry to broaden and stabilize their consumer base."

To better serve low-income women, reduce the mobile phone gender-gap 1 and increase the likelihood of commercial success for mobile financial service deployments in emerging markets, the report recommends:

  • Increasing Mobile Access for Women – Thirty-four per cent of women in Tanzania, 13 per cent of women in Kenya and 10 per cent of women in Papua New Guinea who want to try mobile financial services cite the lack of a phone as the main reason for not having done so. Closing this gender gap can help MFS providers build scale and volume for their mobile financial service businesses; 
  • Increasing Awareness and Understanding of Mobile Financial Services – To benefit from the stability and scale of active women customers, providers need to research how women in their markets learn and absorb information and tailor their communications.   Investments in agent training and grassroots communications will help build awareness and more importantly, help educate women on the value of MFS;
  • Delivering a high-quality customer service offering Women tend to value convenience, reliability, security and privacy in financial management tools.  Investments in marketing, services, customer care and agent networks will enable providers to better meet these needs.  Accessible, well-trained and trustworthy agents will drive greater adoption among women and men alike; and
  • Improving Understanding of and Developing Solutions to Adoption Barriers – The research also unearthed country-specific adoption barriers that need to be addressed with targeted solutions. For example, in Kenya, the lack of an identification card is a significant issue for women. In Pakistan, low literacy levels appear to contribute to women's limited understanding of mobile financial services. Country-specific research will lead to targeted marketing approaches that can broaden the potential user base for MFS.

While mobile financial services offer value to women household financial managers, there are several markets where adoption has been slow for both genders. Although barriers to adoption certainly vary by market, women in a given market tend to experience similar and yet more acute challenges than men, meaning a focused effort on women can also improve male adoption as well.

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