New Report Finds Women are an Underserved Market for Mobile Financial Services

GSMA and Visa Study Reflects Findings from Five Key Emerging Countries

Barcelona: A study released today by the GSMA mWomen Programme and Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) entitled, Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets, shows that women in developing countries represent a significant underserved market and commercial opportunity for mobile financial service providers. The study, focused on women in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, was undertaken to gain additional insight into how financial institutions and mobile network operators can better support the complex financial lives of women at the base of the pyramid.

Around the world more than 2 billion people, the majority of whom are women, lack access to basic financial services. The study, led by Bankable Frontier Associates, found that women often also face an additional burden of having primary responsibility for managing the household finances. These resource-poor women must overcome numerous challenges in managing their finances: incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable, and formal financial tools hard to access.

Key report findings include :

  • Women actively contribute to household income -75 per cent of women surveyed contribute some amount of income, most often from irregular sources like small businesses or agricultural sales;
  • Women use a variety of tools to manage household finances – Nearly 60 per cent of women surveyed are saving money for daily expenses and long-term needs and a full one-third pay the family’s utility bills or make other types of remittances; and
  • Women recognise the security and privacy of mobile money – In Kenya, for example, 95 per cent of women using mobile remittances rated them as secure and private. In comparison, only roughly half of those using personal delivery of cash as their primary method consider it secure and private.

“At Visa, we believe mobile technology is a key component in advancing financial inclusion, providing the excluded a convenient and accessible point of entry to the formal financial system,” said Aletha Ling, Chief Operating Officer of Fundamo, a Visa company. “This is particularly true for women, who face additional barriers to entering the financial mainstream and for whom security and privacy are critical issues. By working to build relevant services, expand distribution networks and tailor their marketing efforts, the mobile financial services community can create better approaches for reaching this underserved group.”

“This research clearly demonstrates that women play a critical role in the success of mobile financial services deployment,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Mobile for Development. “It underscores the fact that services delivered via mobile phone can better meet women’s financial management needs than many of the informal tools they use today and, equally important, provides actionable guidance about how MFS providers can best expand and market their services to better address women’s requirements.”

According to the report, women are active contributors to household incomes, and as household financial managers, they are responsible for a variety of transactions such as remittances, payments and money storage that MFS providers are well-positioned to deliver. As an additional commercial benefit to MFS providers, when women’s financial and payment needs are met consistently, they can be very loyal and evangelising customers. Furthermore, their role as primary recipients of government-to-person payments means that providers who serve women, may be better positioned to provide solutions for the emerging wave of payments in the future.

Daryl Collins, co-author of the seminal work, Portfolios of the Poor , and a director at Bankable Frontier Associates, said: “This study has shown that low-income women undertake complex financial management for their households using a set of often sub-standard instruments. Women often work with high frequency, low value cash flows, which indicates a good match between the services they need and the opportunity for the mobile financial services industry to broaden and stabilize their consumer base.”

To better serve low-income women, reduce the mobile phone gender-gap 1 and increase the likelihood of commercial success for mobile financial service deployments in emerging markets, the report recommends:

  • Increasing Mobile Access for Women – Thirty-four per cent of women in Tanzania, 13 per cent of women in Kenya and 10 per cent of women in Papua New Guinea who want to try mobile financial services cite the lack of a phone as the main reason for not having done so. Closing this gender gap can help MFS providers build scale and volume for their mobile financial service businesses;
  • Increasing Awareness and Understanding of Mobile Financial Services – To benefit from the stability and scale of active women customers, providers need to research how women in their markets learn and absorb information and tailor their communications. Investments in agent training and grassroots communications will help build awareness and more importantly, help educate women on the value of MFS;
  • Delivering a high-quality customer service offering – Women tend to value convenience, reliability, security and privacy in financial management tools. Investments in marketing, services, customer care and agent networks will enable providers to better meet these needs. Accessible, well-trained and trustworthy agents will drive greater adoption among women and men alike; and
  • Improving Understanding of and Developing Solutions to Adoption Barriers – The research also unearthed country-specific adoption barriers that need to be addressed with targeted solutions. For example, in Kenya, the lack of an identification card is a significant issue for women. In Pakistan, low literacy levels appear to contribute to women’s limited understanding of mobile financial services. Country-specific research will lead to targeted marketing approaches that can broaden the potential user base for MFS.

While mobile financial services offer value to women household financial managers, there are several markets where adoption has been slow for both genders. Although barriers to adoption certainly vary by market, women in a given market tend to experience similar and yet more acute challenges than men, meaning a focused effort on women can also improve male adoption as well.


Notes to Editors

The GSMA study includes findings from primary quantitative research in four markets and qualitative research in five markets, supplemented with secondary research from existing sources. Primary data collection was designed by Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) to focus on the women’s segment, as well as differences between mobile phone/MFS users and non-users; all results should be interpreted in this context prior to comparing findings to nationally representative surveys of these same markets.

For the quantitative analysis, BFA commissioned household surveys in Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, over-sampling women to comprise 75 per cent of the total respondents in each country. BFA also undertook qualitative research across rural and urban areas in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, including focus groups of 8-10 and in-depth, one-on-one interviews.

1 A woman in a low or middle-income country is 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, according to the report , “Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity” published by the GSMA and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

About Visa Inc.
Visa is a global payments technology company that connects consumers, businesses, financial institutions and governments in more than 200 countries and territories to fast, secure and reliable electronic payments. We operate one of the world’s most advanced processing networks—VisaNet—that is capable of handling more than 24,000 transaction messages a second, with fraud protection for consumers and assured payment for merchants. Visa is not a bank and does not issue cards, extend credit or set rates and fees for consumers. Visa’s innovations, however, enable its financial institution customers to offer consumers more choices: pay now with debit, ahead of time with prepaid or later with credit products. For more information, visit .

About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries and territories, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 230 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem , including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at or Mobile World Live, the online portal for the mobile communications industry, at

GSMA mWomen ( ), part of GSMA Mobile for Development, aims to increase women’s access to and use of mobile phones and life-enhancing mobile services in developing markets. The GSMA mWomen Global Development Alliance is a programme in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Australian Agency for International Development, GSMA and Visa.

To access the full report, visit

Media Contact:
For the GSMA
Abigail Faylor: +44 (0) 2070 670 851
[email protected]

GSMA Press Office
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For Visa Inc.
Robert Meloche
+1 650 432 4560
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