#DFS4Women opens with a call to keep women at the centre of finance as clients, not simply as CSR projects

#DFS4Women opens with a call to keep women at the centre of finance as clients, not simply as CSR projects

October 24 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

Today at the Lake Victoria Serena Hotel, near Kampala, Uganda, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) programme Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) kicked off its annual learning event—#DFS4Women. Providing women in Africa and Asia with better, more affordable and more useful digital financial products and services is at the heart of this conference.

Over 100 stakeholders gathered for the morning session, which featured Maria Kiwanuka, Senior Advisor to the President of Uganda and former Minister of Finance. Ms. Kiwanuka reminded participants that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” challenging all to focus better on the needs and wants of women in terms of digital financial services (DFS): 1) more affordable products, 2) more accessible products and 3) more affordable tools (such as cheaper handsets). All of these could open up a new frontier of savings and clients for banks and mobile network operators.

Julie Zollmann, co-author of the paper ‘A Buck Short’ that outlines findings from several years’ worth of financial diary studies, explained the barriers that women face when accessing and using formal services. According to Ms. Zollmann, researchers found that women’s cash flows differ greatly from men’s, with women often making very small, yet very frequent transactions, necessitating different types of products than those that exist in the current market.

Ms. Zollmann challenged participants to think of women as a core part of business for DFS and other formal financial services, not simply as corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects. “Let’s all commit to the idea of ‘no more “pink” products,’” she remarked. According to Ms. Kiwanuka, Ms. Zollmann and later panel participants from DFCU Bank, New Faces New Voices and the GSMA Connected Women initiative, there is a business case for serving women.

The numbers don’t lie. Theopista Ntale of New Faces New Voices recalled a project where offering a new product for low-income savers and women on a mobile platform saw—in one small region of Uganda—2.8 billion Uganda shillings deposited in two months’ time. These figures are further reinforced by research from McKinsey that was cited by Ms. Ntale, which found that overall banks could increase new deposits up to US$4.2 trillion and that governments could reduce leakage in spending and tax revenue by up to $110 billion annually if and when traditional cash transfers are changed to mobile delivery systems.

Following the morning speakers, participants broke into groups to dive deeper into issues surrounding women as agents, as customers and as part of value chains receiving high-volume payments digitally. Follow us at #DFS4Women on Twitter and Trello for more on the conference and new insights on DFS for women.

Additional reading: Digital Finance For All: Powering Inclusing Growth In Emerging Economies, McKinsey&Company


October 2016. Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved.             

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.

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