The top 10 things you need to know about women and mobile in Kenya

May 26, 2015 | Connected Women | Kenya | Georgia Barrie

In March 2015 GSMA’s Connected Women programme published Bridging the Gender Gap: Mobile access and usage in low- and middle-income countries. This large scale study included 11,000 household surveys, 77 focus groups and over 120 expert interviews across 11 focus countries. The report aims to quantify the gender gap in mobile ownership, understand women’s usage versus men, understand the drivers and barriers for women and provide recommendations to stakeholders. Based on findings from the study, this blog is the first in a series focusing on the opportunity to increase mobile usage among women in Kenya.

The changing face of Kenya’s mobile market

With many subscriber segments reaching saturation point and the licensing of a number of MVNOs, competition has intensified in the Kenyan mobile market. Declining voice minutes per subscriber and the rise of Whatsapp is also forcing local operators to look beyond the traditional voice and SMS model to new revenue streams such as mobile data, mobile financial services. Together mobile data and mobile financial services have grown from 22% to 33% of Safaricom’s total revenue in the last 3 years.

Future growth drivers

While competition has presented challenges to the profitability of mobile operators, there are 3 clear opportunities in the Kenyan market:

  • Subscriber growth: With unique subscriber penetration estimated at 42% of the total population, there remain a number of underpenetrated subscriber segments. Successfully targeting these segments whilst capitalising on a growing population can drive further subscriber growth in the coming years.
  • Mobile financial services: The number of mobile money subscribers has seen strong growth in recent years with a current estimated 14m 30-day active M-Pesa accounts. However, there remains significant growth potential for operators in building the mobile money ecosystem outside of airtime and P2P transactions.
  • Mobile data: Today approximately 14% of connections in Kenya come from smartphones and this figure is expected to rise to 50% by 2020. Capturing mobile data growth represents a clear revenue opportunity for mobile operators and the wider ecosystem in Kenya.

Women as a growth opportunity

Connected Women research has found that the majority of the untapped market for subscribers, mobile financial services and mobile data in Kenya is women. Successfully targeting the women’s segment could therefore unlock a significant growth opportunity for the Kenyan mobile industry.

This week we share the top 10 things the mobile industry needs to know about mobile access and usage among women in Kenya.

The top 10 things you need to know about women and mobile in Kenya

The top 10 differences between male and female mobile usage in Kenya

  • Women in Kenya are 7% less likely to own a mobile which translates into an estimated 0.7 million fewer women owning mobiles than men. This figure is lower than the sub-Saharan Africa regional average (13%) and is, in part, due to the strength of mobile money in Kenya. Only 15% of women without a mobile in Kenya say that they don’t need one and M-Pesa is a commonly cited reason for needing a mobile.
  • The difference in mobile ownership between men and women is largest among lower-income segments and higher age groups. In lower-income households women are on average 16% less likely to own a mobile than men.
  • Poor or lack of coverage is the most commonly cited barrier preventing both male and female mobile owners in Kenya from using their mobile more
  • For women who don’t own a mobile, cost is the most frequently cited barrier with 75% of women saying that the cost of a handset prevents them from using a mobile. Cost may disproportionately affect women as they typically have less financial independence than men. Only 55% of women mobile owners surveyed had paid for their handset with their own money versus 83% of men.
  • 47% of women who don’t own a mobile in Kenya say that one of the reasons is because they don’t know how to use one. Literacy is a significant barrier for older women with 69% of women aged 35 and over saying they have difficulty reading content on a mobile (vs. just 29% of women under 35).
  • While men and women are similarly likely to receive mobile money, women are 26% less likely than men to send mobile money. This is true for most user segments but is highest among lower-income populations with lower-income women on average 49% less likely to send mobile money than lower-income men.
  • Women are 35% less likely than men to have used mobile internet in the last 30 days and the gap between male and female mobile internet usage exists across urban and rural, higher-income and low-income brackets.
  • Women are much more likely than men to report concerns with security using a mobile. The fear of handset theft, being a victim of conmen and harassment by strangers are all common reasons given by women for not using their mobile  more.
  • While women are less likely than men to try using social media on their phone, the majority of women who have tried Facebook on their mobile use it everyday making them more frequent users than men.
  • Evidence suggests that women in Kenya are often slower adopters of new mobile services than men. However, once women have trialed a service, in many cases they are more likely to be repeat users than men.

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