Why we are addressing women’s financial exclusion

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest financial inclusion rates globally, particularly among women. There are 145 million women unbanked in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of the population do not have a bank account and have no access to traditional methods of finance.

MicroLoan Foundation reaches the poorest and most financially excluded to empower them. We provide loans and training that’ll give women financial independence and autonomy likely for the first time in their lives.

Why are women financially excluded?

There are a number of factors that contribute to low financial inclusion rates in sub-Saharan Africa but two of the most prominent are poverty and rural living. These issues are exacerbated for women, who have lower education and literacy rates and less access to capital. You can read more about education rates in sub-Saharan Africa here.

According to Global Findex data, the global gender gap in financial account ownership has been static since 2011, with women’s statistics still sitting a long way behind men’s. Poor or no education severely restricts access to traditional financial services, as does living in rural areas, far from the nearest bank. Without the means to afford to buy a vehicle, and public transport rarely reaching their locations, travelling to the bank is simply not possible.

MicroLoan Foundation travels to these rural areas, where financial services do not reach, offering training sessions to suit those with no or very low levels of education. To include those who are illiterate we often conduct these sessions through song, dance and roleplay. These meetings teach business skills and financial literacy that the women won’t have been able to access before. We help our women to set up bank accounts, or mobile money accounts, empowering them financially and giving them control of their finances.

Why does it matter?

Women’s financial inclusion has benefits for all: the women, the community and for business.

In the UNDP Fast Fact Sheet on Gender Inequality they state that 80% of all jobs for women and girls in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are in the informal work sector. This includes agriculture, a sector in which many living in rural poverty have no choice other than to work in. Informal sectors mean unreliable incomes, and, mostly, cash payments. This leaves women at higher risk of theft and means they do not get complete control over their finances and certainly cannot plan long term.

We aim to increase financial inclusion by creating opportunities for women to start their own business and access services. This inclusion empowers women, giving them financial independence and stronger economic decision-making power. Women are usually the primary carer for children or dependants but have limited control over the household finances. In many countries, including the countries we work in, when a woman is widowed, she often inherits nothing. Anything the husband owned goes to his family rather than his wife. This happened to Christabel – you can read her story by clicking here. By working to increase their independence women are in a stronger position to cope financially and continue to provide for their children in the case of their husband’s death.

Women are more likely to invest their earnings into their families, prioritising education, healthcare and wellbeing. All this will help ensure families have the best chance of a future outside of poverty.

“Increasing women’s economic participation in the formal sector creates more efficient, productive, and transparent economies.” (GSMA report)

How can MicroLoan Foundation change this, and how technology plays a role

MicroLoan Foundation is committed to increasing financial inclusion rates for rural women living in poverty in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We help women set up bank accounts and teach them how to manage their finances.  This helps them become are financially empowered and financially independent.

“Mobile money has shown itself to be a powerful catalyst for financial inclusion, bringing financial services to the underserved for the first time.” (GSMA report)

One of the mechanisms that is revolutionising financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa is mobile money. It has shown itself to be a useful tool in widening economic participation to those previously excluded. This explains why all 13 of the countries in the world where penetration of mobile money accounts is 10% or more are in sub-Saharan Africa, the area where traditional financial inclusion rates are at their lowest. Mobile money’s existence means that the increase in financial inclusion has been highest amongst the poorest sections of the population.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa the mobile phone is increasingly being used to extend financial services past the limits of bank branches. Mobile money accounts, by providing more convenient and affordable financial services, offer promise for reaching unbanked adults traditionally excluded from the formal financial system—such as women, poor people, young people, and those living in rural areas.” (GSMA report)

Mobile money aids MicroLoan’s mission of expanding financial inclusion to those excluded or unreached by traditional financial mechanisms.

All our operations in Zimbabwe use mobile money, and we are piloting a mobile money scheme in some of Zambia. You can read more about how MicroLoan is using mobile money here. 

Conclusion

Mobile money is one of the many ways we are addressing women’s financial exclusion. Our operations aim to financially empower the poorest women in the world, giving them the opportunity to transform their lives.

If you want to contribute to empowering the financially marginalised please click here:

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