As we discussed in this post, financial technology, or Fintech for short, is helping to drive inclusion among the estimated two billion people in the world who don’t have access to financial services. However, barriers remain including a disproportionate number of women who are still excluded.
According to the latest figures in the 2016 Financial and Digital Inclusion Project report published by the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank based in Washington DC, half of the female population in developing countries don’t have access to a bank account. Of the 26 countries surveyed, only five including Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Kenya and South Africa- reported gender parity or better, while the countries with the lowest percentage were Afghanistan (4%) and Pakistan (5%)1.
The report listed six actions which could help close this gap.
Promote data collection
Increasing the amount of data collected about women’s use of financial services will help identify the most suitable types of products and market them to financially excluded women. Some countries are already collecting data, including Chile, Rwanda, Nigeria and Zambia, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched an $80 million initiative to support these efforts in May 2016.
Develop strategies to advance financial inclusion among women
The report highlighted some of the actions taken by India where the government launched deposit schemes for girls and digital government- to- person payments as a first step to other financial services. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bank set up a ‘Women Entrepreneur’s Dedicated Help Desk’ in each branch.
Identify champions to raise awareness
The report suggested identifying influential women to further the cause. Zambia provides a case in point where Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Zambia, has acted as an advocate for improved access to financial products for women.
Promote digital identity programs
One of the biggest barriers to opening a bank account is a lack of formal identification, and the problem is worse among women than men. The Pakistani government launched a biometric identification system to make sure certain payments could only be collected by women, while in Nigeria Mastercard and the United Nations (UN) joined forces to launch a project to teach women about digital identity.
Promote access to financial services through digital channels
In our blog series on Fintech trends, we discussed how mobile money and digital money are increasing access to financial services. The report used Brazil’s Bolsa Família program to illustrate digital channels in action, as it allows women to receive funds via smart cards or deposits into basic bank accounts.
Make sure products are convenient
Convenience makes a big difference when sending remittances, and it’s no different with other financial services. According to a report published by the World Bank and Gallup, post offices are more popular among women than financial institutions as they’re cheaper, they have a wider network of branches and they offer familiar surroundings. So the UN and the Universal Postal Union encourages post offices to offer financial products targeted at women.