1. Drive Consumer Education
General knowledge about the costs and benefits of mobile financial services must be improved. There is a window of opportunity here. Network operators that already have an established relationship with consumers, and agents that are easily accessible, can spread the word and drive acceptance because they have a wide presence in rural areas. GSMA and Cherie Blair Foundation found that 300 million fewer women than men own mobile phones in developing countries. Many women in these countries remain unaware of the opportunities offered by mobile banking, and harbor misconceptions about aspects such as security.
2. Promote Security and Privacy
Security is far more of a key factor for women than men. It is not only a question of trusting money agents when cashing in and cashing out (see below), but also the reliance on a virtual interface to manage their household economy. For example, in Tanzania it is a well-known “secret” that women hide money. Men do not ask, and women do not tell. It is considered better for everybody if women are allowed to set some money aside for tougher times. Perhaps they feel that a mobile phone will reveal how much they have put away or put their savings at risk if the phone is stolen.
3. Encourage Mobile Confidence
Using a mobile phone is not second nature. Millions of people around the world have never made a phone call, never mind a financial transaction. During a study from last year by The Grameen Foundation in India, only 23 out of 65 were able to use a mobile phone independently. Of those women, just 13 owned a phone. Despite training, none of the women reported knowing how to check their savings balances using SMS or send money to another user.
4. Improve Access
It is important to educate women about what is needed to use mobile financial services. Registration is one example. Making it clear how to sign up for these services will not only to encourage higher demand but also streamline the registration process. An Ericsson ConsumerLab study found that 35 percent of Kenyan women that expressed an interest in trying mobile financial services cited a lack of identification as their main reason for not actually opening an account.
5. Provide Trustworthy Agents
With many women still unsure of the benefits of mobile money, agents in developing countries play a key part in sharing knowledge, and ultimately raising acceptance of virtual accounts as means for keeping funds. Agents fill the dual role of ambassador and educator: they inform and educate, while guaranteeing the availability of cash. Agents have played an important role in the success of M-Pesa. Four and a half years after launch, Central Bank of Kenya reported that there are approximately 46,000 mobile money agents in the country, compared to just 1,072 bank branches. M-Pesa processes transactions worth US$4.98 billion annually, translating to 17 percent of the country’s GDP.
There is clearly a lot of work still to do in educating and facilitating mobile and financial services to women in developing countries. I believe that more transparency and interoperability between operators and financial service providers will help consumers – especially women – to reduce their reliance on cash, and seek financial inclusion.