Examining the financial inclusion of women – the mobile money gender gap in Rwanda

In a previous blog post, we outlined some of the barriers that affect women at a higher rate than men and that can help explain the origins of the mobile money gender gap in Rwanda. But do these barriers affect women regular and power users differently? What are the main drivers for mobile money usage among women? And finally, what can be done to bridge the mobile money gender gap?

These observations are based on 40 semi-structured interviews and five focus group discussions we conducted with men and women in Kigali. Participants were between 25 and 34 years of age. Each participant was either a regular user (sent or received at least one transaction via mobile money in the last three months) or a power user (sent or received at least one transaction a week via mobile money over the last three months). The barriers and potential opportunities to drive uptake of mobile money are also likely to vary with different demographic groups (e.g. for those in rural areas).

The barriers affect regular and power users in different ways

Transaction fees – a high price sensitivity to the fees associated with making a mobile money transaction was much more likely to be mentioned as an issue by female respondents across the usage groups. However, female power users were more likely than female regular users to value the convenience offered by mobile money, which seemed to compensate for the transaction fees.

Confidence and understanding – female regular users were more likely than female power users to mention poor confidence in their ability to make a transaction and low levels of understanding of the service as a barrier. While it is intuitive that lower exposure and understanding of the service may contribute to lower usage, this was never mentioned as an issue by men across usage groups. Also, while female power users were confident users, they claimed that women are shyer than men and don’t believe in their ability to use the service effectively. This perception that women have low confidence in the ability to use mobile money, and that they are likely to not understand how the service works was also often mentioned by the men interviewed.

Trust – female regular users were more likely to report lower levels of trust in mobile money services than female power users. Female regular users were more likely to attribute low levels of trust in the mobile money service to the fact that agents tend to be mobile and not have permanent addresses. This meant that, when mistakes were made, women were unable to locate the same agent who helped them perform the transaction. While female power users were more likely than female regular users to trust the service with their money, once the amount of money on the mobile money account had reached a certain point, female power users tended to withdraw it and take it to a bank.

Trust in mobile money services was not particularly mentioned as an issue for the majority of the men interviewed – male regular and power users were indeed more likely than women to trust the service with their money.

What do women like about mobile money?

Throughout the qualitative research, women were consistently enthusiastic about the convenience offered by mobile money as it helped them save travel time and travel money.

Women also identified a saving opportunity in their mobile money account – all the women interviewed were consistently using their wallet to “store money for emergencies” (which was portrayed as different from saving money, which they were more likely to do at a bank as it was deemed safer than mobile money). Specifically, women noticed that when they kept their money in cash, they were more likely to spend it on what were seen as “unnecessary things”, while as they started keeping it on their mobile money account, they were more likely to avoid misusing it. Women reported always keeping a certain amount of money on their mobile money account, which they could withdraw in case of emergency.

Finally, having a mobile money account gave women a sense of empowerment, as they felt able to manage their finances in a quick and secure way, while keeping this process private. Also, mobile money gave women a sense of independence. 100 per cent of the respondents said that it felt good when their transactions went through.

A few ideas for mobile money providers on how reach more women with their service

Make mobile money a competitive alternative to cash – as discussed in the previous blog post, women (both regular and power users) are more likely than men to be price sensitive, and to look for cheaper alternatives when making financial transactions. This is truer for female regular users than for female power users, who tend to value the convenience of the service over the transaction fees. With this in mind, mobile money providers need to be creative if they want to increase uptake of the service among women, for instance by creating targeted promotions that incentivise women to adopt and use the service.

Promote group savings via the mobile money – all the women interviewed during this research in Rwanda reported saving money via the bank or a local savings group. They also reported storing money away in case of emergencies, which happened primarily via the mobile money account. Providers seeking to improve the attractiveness of mobile money services for women should consider offering group savings products that target existing female savings groups. Introducing the mobile savings account to an already-existing and trusted savings group, would not only allow the provider to reach new women, but also to teach women how to use it in a network where they are supported and encouraged by their peers.

Consider women’s preferences for distribution and marketing – women in our sample were more likely than men to report instances of poor customer service and to blame these instances for the poor trust they had in mobile money. Also, women suggested the creation of fixed locations and small houses where mobile money agents could host their customers, to enable customers to return when issues arise. From a marketing standpoint, it is also important that women are portrayed in billboards, TV ads, and radio ads, to avoid giving women the sense that the service is not for them.