“It took 27 years to get to this point,” 60-year-old Yvette Amani says, while sitting in a courtyard in Côte d’Ivoire and reflecting on her athiéké business. “In a moment, a client can call saying, ‘I sent you 50,000 CFA through Orange Money.’ And I can go retrieve it to make my purchases. Orange Money has changed my life.” She pauses and adds, “It’s like a hole you can hide something in,” a reference to her enhanced ability to save money.
As Yvette’s story illustrates, mobile money can be life-changing for women in developing countries. But how common is Yvette’s story? CGAP’s nationally representative 2018 Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) survey paints a more detailed picture than we’ve ever had before of women’s financial inclusion in Côte d’Ivoire. Together with the 2017 Global Findex, it shows that even though the gender gap in mobile money is closing, women like Yvette remain the exception, not the rule. In fact, .
Why this slow closing of the gender gap?
CGAP’s new data show that the most financially excluded segment is uneducated rural women, 91 percent of whom are financially excluded. Urban women fare better, but still not as well as men.
A major barrier is that fewer Ivorian women own mobile phones, especially in rural areas. GSMA’s mapping of the customer journey in Côte d’Ivoire in 2017 showed that 20 percent fewer women than men owned phones. This more recent CGAP study echoed these findings, revealing a 15 percentage point gender gap overall with a considerably higher 23 percentage point gap in rural areas. The GSMA research also revealed that low-income people often perceive digital financial services to be irrelevant for people like themselves who transact in small amounts.
Financial innumeracy is also a factor. The FII survey shows that half the population of Côte d’Ivoire does not have financial numeracy skills or the ability to navigate a phone menu or send text messages. As discussed in a previous blog post, financial innumeracy can make it incredibly difficult for people to access and use digital financial services. Innumeracy disproportionately affects women in Côte d’Ivoire, where only 46 percent of women are numerate versus 62 percent of men.
The financial inclusion gap hinders women’s empowerment
The benefits of financial inclusion go beyond the convenience and security of having access to formal financial services. The Côte d’Ivoire FII survey shows that women become more empowered to make financial decisions as they progress along the customer journey, from simply being aware that a financial service exists to becoming an active user like Yvette. In CGAP’s survey, 40 percent of female advanced users indicated that they have most or almost all the influence over their households’ spending decisions. Furthermore, 75 percent of these users reported that they make the final decision on how their personal money is spent or saved. These findings suggest that financial inclusion gives women greater autonomy.
What actions are needed?
Côte d’Ivoire’s Agency for the Promotion of Financial Inclusion is developing a national financial inclusion strategy that recognizes these issues. The strategy emphasizes the importance of reaching vulnerable and excluded groups, including women. It aims to encourage and promote affordable, innovative products and services tailored to women’s needs in rural and peri-urban areas. It also aims to promote better consumer protection and financial education for women. However, the agency has not yet defined how it will implement these strategic objectives, a task that will fall to various working groups.
It will be essential that these groups have the capacity to analyze the determinants of women’s financial exclusion and to design and sequence activities that draw on global best practices. Women are part of an ecosystem, like the other segments of the population, and it will also be essential to have a cross-cutting gender approach to ensure that all policies and regulations, as well initiatives to accelerate gender-friendly financial inclusion.
Dear Corinne and Yasmin, thank you for the insightful post and your analysis. You suggest that "financial inclusion gives women greater autonomy.". From your reading of the data, could you help me understand further how can we assure ourselves that the causality is in the direction that you suggest, and not reversed, in that women with greater autonomy are more likely to use financial services? Best, Devesh
Thank you Devesh,
You are right to point out the potential endogeneity and it is something that researchers will have to examine closely in the coming months. A previous webinar by FII for Finequity (http://www.findevgateway.org/organization/finequity), accessible here: http://www.findevgateway.org/announcement/webinar-recording-now-availab… details beginning at the 26 minute mark the methodology that is usually applied in such instances, one that is strongly suggestive of a causal link. I hope you find it helpful. The webinar linked focused on their analysis in Kenya.
Access to finance is possible either from formal banking system under the banner 'financial inclusion' or more comfortably
from informal system ( traditional money lenders) from illiterate segment's perspective. In this context, while ' functions of the finance remains the same regardless of sources or systems, what makes the difference in the quintessence of autonomy or empowerment to women ultimately?