Unpacking women’s use of mobile money

With the launch of this year’s SOTIR comes new insights regarding gender and mobile money alongside better understanding on how to reduce the gender gap in women’s usage. However, while there have been substantial gains in mobile-led financial inclusion over the last few years, women are still less likely than men to use mobile money services. This gender gap in mobile money account ownership and usage is a missed opportunity for both women and mobile money providers and must be acted upon. 

Looking at the latest GSMA Consumer Survey data for 2022, the positive effect of mobile money on women’s lives is clear. Across most of the nine countries surveyed (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Senegal), over half of female mobile money users reported that mobile money helps them better manage their finances and everyday affairs, such as shopping and paying bills. In all survey countries, most female respondents reported that mobile money helps save them time.   

Lower mobile ownership and awareness among women must be addressed 

To address the gender gap in mobile money usage, phone ownership among women must be improved. Owning a mobile phone is an important pre-requisite to mobile money use, but there is a persistent gender gap in mobile ownership. Across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), women are 7% less likely than men to own a mobile phone but there are significant variations by country. Regarding awareness of mobile money, we see it can be driven by several factors. Key drivers include the maturity and competitiveness of the local market, the presence of extensive agent networks and the robustness of mobile and mobile money infrastructure. Outside of the three most mature mobile money markets in the survey, women have a lower awareness of mobile money than men. 

Wide gender gap in mobile money account ownership  

Despite overall growth in mobile money account ownership across LMICs, the gender gap remains substantial. According to the GSMA’s analysis of the World Bank’s 2021 Global Findex Database, women in LMICs are 28% less likely than men to own a mobile money account. More recent data from the GSMA Consumer Survey reveals that apart from Kenya, the most mature mobile money market in the survey, there is still a wide gender gap in mobile money account ownership. For instance, in Senegal and Ghana, there are high levels of mobile money account ownership, yet women are 15% and 10% less likely than men to have an account, respectively. In five of the seven survey countries with available data (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan), the gender gap in mobile money account ownership widened over the last year primarily due to men’s account ownership growing at a faster pace than women’s. The gender gap in mobile money account ownership tends to be higher among certain demographics. For instance, in eight of the nine survey countries, the gender gap in mobile money account ownership is greater among those living in rural areas. 

Once women have a mobile money account, they have similar levels of use as men on a 30-day basis 

While 30-day activity rates are lower among female mobile money account owners than men in Senegal and Bangladesh, they are similar in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Indonesia, and higher in India. When looking at more frequent usage, a clearer gender gap emerges. Female mobile money account owners are less likely than their male counterparts to use mobile money on a weekly basis in half of our survey countries with available data (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and Bangladesh).

Figure 1: Proportion of men and women at each stage of the mobile money user journey in 2022, by country (percentage of the total adult population)  

Source: 2022 GSMA Consumer Survey

Women experience certain barriers more than men 

The most commonly reported barrier preventing female mobile owners who are already aware of mobile money from owning an account is a lack of perceived relevance, such as a preference for cash, a lack of money or access to alternative ways to transfer money. The second most reported barrier is a lack of knowledge and skills, such as not knowing how to use mobile money, difficulties using a handset or low literacy. Both barriers were the most reported barriers by both men and women in all six survey countries for which data was available. Certain barriers are experienced by more female respondents than males in specific countries and, given the higher proportion of women who do not have a mobile money account, addressing these barriers could have an outsized positive impact. For example, concerns about safety and trust were reported by more female respondents than males in Nigeria and Indonesia. By improving relevance, safety, knowledge and skills as well as addressing other challenges mobile money providers can not only increase women’s access and use of mobile money but also increase their confidence in making a more diverse range of transactions using the service.  

Moving forward 

SOTIR 2023 shows us that the mobile money gender gap is not only persistent but is also widening in some parts of the world. To create an environment in which women use mobile money on par with men, mobile money providers alongside regulators and other actors within the financial inclusion space must take further action. Addressing the persistent gender gap in mobile ownership is as essential as ever to increasing women’s mobile money adoption. The lack of perceived relevance and digital skills, social norms and other barriers also need to be taken into consideration to enable women to reap the full benefits of mobile money. 

Check out the rest of the story by downloading the State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2023 here.