2.3 Financial inclusion

Although it has narrowed, a gender gap in access to finance still exists. Women are more likely to lack identification or a mobile phone, to live far from a bank branch, and to need support to open and effectively use a financial account. Globally, 78 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women have an account—a gender gap of 4 percentage points. Developing economies have a wider average gap, 6 percentage points, a decrease from 9 percentage points after many years of remaining unchanged. In 2021, 74 per cent of men but only 68 per cent of women in developing economies had an account. 32

Differences are encountered across regions in terms of account ownership. While sub-Sahara Africa and the Arab States region report 12 and 13 percentage point gender gaps in account ownership (twice as large as the developing economy average and three times larger than the global average), the gender gap in some countries in the Asia and Pacific region is at 3 percentage points. In countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, women are 7 percentage points less likely than men to have an account.33

Box 2: GSMA Connected Women Programme: Accelerating digital and financial inclusion for women

Mobile has the power to transform women’s lives. However, there is a substantial gender gap in mobile access and use across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The GSMA Connected Women Programme aims to reduce the gender gap in mobile Internet and mobile money services and unlock significant commercial and socio-economic opportunities. The programme aims to advance the global conversation around the mobile gender gap and to drive increased awareness, prioritisation and action amongst stakeholders.

Since 2016, over 40 mobile operators across Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the Americas have made formal commitments to reduce the gender gap in the customer base of their mobile Internet or mobile money services, as part of the GSMA Connected Women Commitment Initiative. So far, they have collectively reached over 55 million additional women through initiatives such as offering low-cost Internet-enabled handsets to address women’s price sensitivity, recruiting female agents and merchants, developing savings and loans products tailored to women’s needs, redesigning mobile money apps to appeal to both women and men and developing and marketing use cases which appeal to women. GSMA Connected Women also develops insights and thought leadership on the size and drivers of the mobile gender gap as well as opportunities and approaches for addressing it.

Key Publications:

The Mobile Gender Gap Report
Reaching 50 Million Women with Mobile: A Practical Guide

Capacity building course for policy-makers:

Bridging the Mobile Gender Gap

The GSMA Connected Women Programme is currently funded by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and supported by the GSMA and its members.

Source: GSMA Connected Women Programme

Use of digital payments also varies depending on the economy: while it is near universal for both women and men among account owners in high-income economies, in developing economies men with an account are, on average, 6 percentage points more likely than women with an account to use digital payments. This gender gap in the use of digital payments among account owners has remained virtually unchanged since 2014, despite the overall increase in digital payments. 34

Technology-enabled mobile money accounts are helping drive inclusive access to finance for younger women. For instance, in sub-Sahara Africa, according to the World Bank, “[t]he gender gap for financial institution accounts increases as women age, but it remains small for men and women who only have mobile money accounts …” Among economies in sub-Sahara Africa with more than 20 per cent of adults with a mobile money account, young adult men are 8 percentage points more likely than young adult women to have a financial institution account. As adults grow older, this gap increases to 9 percentage points between men and women ages 25–50 and 15 percentage points between men and woman age 51 and older. 35

Box 3: A 10-point action plan for prioritizing women’s digital financial inclusion

Digital private and public sector payments, designed to meet women’s needs and incentivized through policies that make them safe and affordable, can lead to increased GDP growth, increased customer growth and retention, higher labour force participation, improved household bargaining power and freer gender norms.

Drawing on decades of experience, research and in-field activity, the Better than Cash Alliance, Generation Equality Forum, UN Capital Development Fund, UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, UN Women, Women’s World Banking, and the World Bank, produced a 10-point action plan to end financial inequality for women and to build more resilient economies.

The 10-point action plan for governments and businesses to rebuild stronger after COVID-19 by prioritizing women’s digital financial inclusion is as follows:

1 Digitalize private sector payments.
2 Digitalize payments of government social benefits.
3 Outlaw discrimination against women.
4 Ensure universal access to identification.
5 End the gender gap in mobile phone ownership.
6 Hire women at Banks and mobile network operators.
7 Collect, analyse and use sex-disaggregated data.
8 Design appropriate and affordable financial products for women.
9 Help women benefit from e-commerce opportunities.
10 Create and enforce strong digital finance consumer protection mechanisms.

All 10 actions are equally important. They are not sequential steps but mutually reinforcing actions for all stakeholders committed to reaching financial equality.

Source: Better than Cash Alliance