Will Women With Phones Drive Growth In Africa?

Will Women With Phones Drive Growth In Africa?

In Nigeria, 73 percent of women have never used a financial product, relying instead on traditional savings groups where a collector comes to collect their daily earnings, according to the nonprofit Women’s World Banking, Reuters reports.

Working with with Nigeria’s Diamond Bank, Women’s World Banking developed a pilot savings account named Beta (pidgin English for ‘good’) to reach this vast, untapped market.

Sale representatives go to the open-air markets of Lagos each day, rather than waiting for customers to come to the bank. They open savings accounts using their mobile phones for busy female traders. It takes a few minutes.

They also come to their customers’ market stalls to collect money that they wish to deposit in their accounts, the same way as those who run informal savings groups.

Deposits are confirmed by text message.

In its first year, more than 132,000 people who had never had a bank account opened Beta accounts, Reuters reports.

“I think technology is going to help us go to scale,” said Okonjo-Iweala,  Nigeria’s finance minister.

Kenya is one of Africa’s leaders in mobile phone-based financial services, thanks to Safaricom’s Mpesa.

But there is still a big gender gap in Kenya, with 53 percent of women compared to 71 percent of men using formal financial services, experts said, according to Reuters.

One challenge with mobile banking is that poor families often share one phone — and that phone is controlled by the man.

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“Women in Africa do not need charity,” said Jennifer Riria, CEO of Kenya Women Holding, the largest microfinance network in Kenya, Reuters reports. “Access (to finance) is the issue. Control of the resources that they create is the issue. And respect in the financial sector is the issue.”

Riria’s bank plans to offer women loans to buy mobile phones so that they can keep their financial transactions confidential.

“It’s very important for empowering women and providing control,” she told  Reuters.