Mobile Money: Bringing financial inclusion to life for women in Ghana

January 4, 2018 | Connected Women | Middle East and North Africa | Ghana | Adrine Muhura

According to the Central Bank of Ghana, mobile money has experienced rapid growth since it was introduced in 2009, with registered accounts doubling to 40% in the year to 2016. However, there is still a gender gap in both mobile phone ownership of 16% and similarly mobile money account ownership of 17%.

Drawing on a recent field trip to Ghana, this blog examines three challenges that prevent women from adopting and using mobile money at the same rate as men, and how mobile operators can address these barriers.

How do women in Ghana benefit from mobile money?

The GSMA Connected Women research shows that women value four things when it comes to their finances: convenience, security, privacy, and reliability. Mobile money offers these fundamental benefits but it also has the capacity to enhance life for women in Ghana through schemes such as savings and entrepreneurship.

  • Savings: Ghanaian women are savers. To avoid the temptation of spending their cash they use an informal system of ‘susus’. Women pay a fee to individuals to have their cash collected and kept safe for them. Women who chose instead to use a mobile money account have both the benefit of cash out of temptations way and the opportunity to earn interest on their savings, which is not something available from the ‘susu’ system and is somewhat unique to the regulatory framework in Ghana.

 

  • Entrepreneurship: Ghana’s open markets are a hive of activity with the majority of merchants and customers being women. Demand for product is high. Through mobile money accounts and access to micro-credit, female merchants can take advantage of this demand and grow their business for the future. They also have the opportunity partnering with mobile network operators to manage agent outlets, generating an additional source of income.

 
Three key challenges preventing women in Ghana from using mobile money

Mobile operators and the wider mobile money ecosystem recognise low literacy and awareness of mobile money benefits as limiting women’s use of the service compared to men. According to the World Bank, 71% of Ghanaian women (vs 82% of men) are literate. These factors combined with the following three key challenges of safety, trust, and affordability are a hindrance to use among women.

1. Safety: Ghanaian women frequently highlight the need to be reassured that their money is safe. One mobile money agent operating close to an open-air market in greater Accra reported a reduction in female clients who deposit money, which she attributed to women now preferring to keep money in cash form for fear of losing it through mobile money-related fraud.

2. Trust: Of the people we spoke with, many suggested that women are less likely than men to trust mobile money agents, and fear they will lose money by interacting with them. This lack of trust may be a result of social norms or simply agents not offering good customer service, perhaps due to inadequate training.

3. Affordability: Transaction costs for using mobile money were continually mentioned as a barrier by many. Ghanaian women have less disposable income compared to men and as a result tend to be more price sensitive, often preferring cash over mobile money.

How can operators address these challenges and help drive adoption of mobile money among women?

1. Safety: Operators can continue to invest in customer education. For example, using available channels to highlight different types of mobile money fraud, encouraging Ghanaian women to be alert and ensuring they do not share their PIN or take instructions over the phone about their mobile money account. Operators can continue to offer secure options to verify personal information and report fraud. The GSMA has produced the Mobile Money Risk Management toolkit, addressing the challenge of Safety in more detail.

2. Trust: In Ghana, a need was identified for operators to be proactive in weeding out unscrupulous agents found to defraud women customers. Agents can be trained to provide assistance without the need for handling a customer’s phone or viewing their PIN as this can compromise the security of their mobile money account. Research carried out in Rwanda by GSMA Connected Women has shown that training and integrating female agents as part of the mobile money distribution network can help solve issues of trust and poor customer service.

3. Affordability: Ghanaian women are known to make frequent but low value mobile money transactions. Entry level pricing structures work well here and encourage women to reuse the service. Operators could also consider promotional discounts or coupons that are relevant to them, offer value and justify the associated transaction costs.

There may be many more than three challenges and competing priorities, however, by continuing to target safety, trust, and affordability, mobile operators are closing the gender gap, ensuring Ghanaian women are given the same opportunities as men and allowing women to reap the benefits that mobile money offers.

The GSMA Mobile Money Code of Conduct investigates these challenges further and presents recommendations for consideration.

 

This initiative is currently funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and supported by the GSMA and its members.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also supports the GSMA Connected Women programme, funding research to better understand where along the mobile money customer journey women tend to drop off more than men and identify opportunities for addressing key gender gaps in specific markets in Africa.

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