Financial Inclusion in Africa

Financial Inclusion in Africa

I recently visited the continent of Africa for the first time landing in Tanzania, the land of Kilimanjaro. My goal amongst other things was to understand financial inclusion in Africa and why it is so successful? Of particular importance to me was the success of mobile payments.

As the trip was funded my a client, majority of the findings I cannot share publicly, however I will share one interesting factor, which I believe contributes heavily towards financial inclusion and mobile payments:

Women.

That’s right. Women.

As an outsider, this was so very striking. The sheer number of women who are entrepreneurs and using mobile phones for payments, far outpaces any other place that I have visited or may have read about.

Financial Inclusion: Tea stall / Mobile Agent location at the fisheries in Dar es Salaam. Woman owned and run.
Financial Inclusion: Tea stall / Mobile Agent location at the fisheries in Dar es Salaam. Woman owned and run.

This I believe was the differentiator.

When you have an ecosystem where women are empowered to be independent and do business, the transactions within an economy increases exponentially. This is what I believe to be the case in Tanzania (and I’m sure elsewhere in other countries in Africa).

Multi-Agent load shop in Dar es Salaam: Owned & run by a woman
Multi-Agent load shop in Dar es Salaam: Owned & run by a woman

Out of 18 women randomly sampled, each and everyone of them knew how to use mobile money. I’m not sure if I could say the same for Pakistan or India.

Empowerment to use the mobile phone and to further conduct commerce using that channel of communication is not simply a matter of providing women with phones, it is a sociocultural problem.

In a recent report for financial inclusion as carried out by InterMedia and Karandaaz, the Financial Inclusions Insights (PII) (Wave 2) Survey of April 2015 listed the following factors which prevent women from possessing a mobile phone.

Financial Inclusion Pakistan

Such behavioral norms in society can literally have a visible impact on the economy (in some crude manner, think of depriving 50% of the adult workforce, the tools to trade).

So if you want your mobile economy to succeed, include women in the equation.

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