Women's Empowerment

Women's Empowerment

At the Joe Bar Market, market women like yellow

Women's Empowerment

At the Joe Bar Market, market women like yellow

By Ali Akram and Anna Ferracuti, UNCDF MM4P
March 08 , 2017
Monrovia, LIBERIA - 

In the Joe Bar Market on the Old Road, the stalls follow one another neatly, displaying local delicacies like colorful embroidery on rotting-wood-plank canvas.

If you have been there this year and you had to think of a color associated to this place, your mind would probably respond yellow without hesitation. Yellow has become the dominant color in the market since market women started accepting mobile money.

This is the outcome the “MoMo Angel Campaign” pilot launched by Lonestar Cell MTN to recruit and train women as agents and merchants in the marketplace.

The campaign was inspired by the #DFS4Women event organized by The UN Capital Development Fund’ s programme MM4P last October 2016, which saw in the Lonestar Mobile Money Senior Manager Massa Dennis an active participant.

During the conference, concrete examples fueled the discussion around the barriers that prevent women from accessing mobile money at the same rates as men, and why women agents are crucial to reach women customers. The challenges that women agents face were also addressed, with testimony of how other countries were working to remove them. At the end of the event, participants were asked to come up with solutions themselves, through an ad hoc ideation session. That is when Massa Dennis started drafting her first ideas for a new agent strategy in Liberia.

In December 2016, she shared Lonestar’s intentions with the UNCDF MM4P local Digital Finance Expert Ali Akram: “UNCDF has provided tremendous support to the growth and expansion of mobile money in Liberia. Through the technical assistance of MM4P, we have been able to sign on some major bulk payments deals, most notably, the Civil servants payments with five key ministries set to kick off in Q1 2017. We will be launching the “MoMo Market Women” Initiative in January 2017 which was an outcome of the Digital Finance for Women Conference I attended in October organized by UNCDF”.

MoMo Angel is now reality and hit the news.

Heavily branded, the campaign is built around three value-proposition pillars:

  1. When a market woman performs a minimum of 20 transactions monthly valued LD$1,500 (US$16), she qualifies for an educational assistance of LD$2,000 (US$21) against the receipt of a previous educational payment for one of her dependents, preferably a girl;
  2. A market woman agent gets LD$ 470 (USD$5) for every other market woman she is able to recruit;
  3. A market woman aspiring to be an agent is asked for a minimum start-up capital of LD$5,000 (US$53) instead of the legally required LD$20,000 (US$ 213).

With this initiative, Lonestar is clearly setting a trend in the wider marketplace of financial service providers. “Our market women initiative is geared towards empowering, giving them the means to save their money conveniently to realize their daily income without difficulties. […] We registered them for mobile money, where they can easily pay for the market through the same mobile money, in order for them to know this, we provided one-month extensive training for these women to be able to use mobile money, and its benefits. […] We have 10 agents at this Old Road market where these women can have access to mobile money services, we have also set up a platform where an agent can bring her friend”, explained Massa Dennis to the media at the launch event.

This initiative comes in the back drop of a country that is just emerging from devastations of the Ebola virus disease that plunged Liberia into economic crisis, and subsequent contraction of the banking sector. Only an estimated 30 percent of the country’s adult population own a bank account with a formal financial institution and limited access to financial services constrains recovery of the economy.

Women play a critical role in the country’s economy, constituting 47 percent of Liberia’s labor force and undertaking key roles in the agricultural and informal sector, either as producers or running small-scale business. As digital financial services gain traction in Liberia, it can be a potent tool in expanding and enhancing women’s economic roles in the country’s fragile economy by providing them a means to access savings, loans and insurance products.

On International Women’s day, MM4P commits to continue supporting initiatives towards women economic empowerment and gender equality, not just in Liberia but across the nine countries the programme currently covers.

 
For more information, please contact
Sabine Mensah
Technical Specialist Digital Finance
Ali Akram
DFS Expert
Additional Information
Sabine Mensah
Technical Specialist Digital Finance

Walking in the shoes of digital financial service customers

Women's Empowerment

Walking in the shoes of digital financial service customers

October 26 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

On Day 3 of the #DFS4Women event, important insights started emerging about how to leverage the digitization of high volume payments to build a digital ecosystem in which people feel at ease using mobile money and second generation financial products. Significant emphasis was placed on behavioural changes and on what drives individuals to reassess their saving and spending practices and adopt new ones.

In one session, ‘DFS and High Volume Payments,' Innate Motion and PHB Development led a discussion focusing on the emotional and structural factors that help induce this change in the session ‘DFS and High Volume Payments.' The first category of factors includes the identification of people’s needs; the creation of a value proposition, keeping in mind that each stakeholder (whether mobile network operator, client, agent or aggregator) needs a specific business case; and especially the cultivation of confidence in the reliability of the system through recourse mechanisms that allow customers to address concerns, doubts and questions. The second category includes phone penetration, network coverage and telecommunication infrastructure, agent networks, cash float distribution, and availability of rebalancing options and favourable regulation/interoperability. The combination of these factors provides the background against which potential customers would ask themselves, do I really want to shift to digital means of payment? And, if so, can I do it?

The two questions are interwoven. As Innate Motion and PHB Development suggested, the role of digital financial service (DFS) providers and local financial institutions is to set the stage for this behavioural change to happen through a roadmap that includes these steps:

  • Building an ECOSYSTEM involving all players;
  • Creating an EDUCATION path for clients;
  • Creating TRUST through ambassadors chosen from local leaders;
  • Providing MULTIPLE CHOICES, eschewing binary contraposition between cash and mobile and, instead, granting the user the possibility to choose on a case-by-case basis;
  • Creating STAGED introduction of digitization;
  • Making technology that is as inclusive as possible for people with low-literacy skills and particularly that involves the vernacular;
  • Relying on specialists; and
  • Aligning commercial and public interests due to the involvement of donors, state institutions and private partners.

The core message laid out by Innate Motion and PHB Development was, ‘If you want change to happen, focus on driving behaviours—not on the next hi-tech gadget.’ To this end, they started by identifying the main streams of bulk payments: government to person, or G2P (civil servant payments, social protection payments); government to business, or G2B (loans to businesses, subsidies to farmer organizations/cooperatives); person to government, or P2G (tax and fine payments, utility bill payments); and development organization to person, or D2P (cash transfers, cash for work [C4W], emergency transfers).

Then, they invited participants to play a game: different small groups, divided by country, had to craft a fictitious identity of a prospective female DFS user. Participants were asked to bring to life a character, to imagine her life trajectory needs, dreams and aspirations. In creating the profiles, group members had to ask themselves these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What really matters to them?
  • What drives them in everyday life?
  • What are their aspirations and goals?
  • What are the obstacles they face?
  • What are their fears?
  • What would be their motto?

Different scenarios were played out, such as a widowed pensioner from rural Senegal who made a living through small commerce and sometimes received money from her son who had migrated abroad, and a single mother of three who made ends meet by combining income from street hawking with small contributions from the state. Discussion of financial services was left in the background while participants fleshed out the biographies of their characters, and yet dreams and fears appeared clearly entangled with financial practices as key instruments to achieve the former and rein in the latter.

In another session specifically focused on clients, 17 Triggers took a different tack on the same challenge—through an exercise of rapid ideation. In the process of rapid ideation, they used NAPS 100+, a technique based on non-judgment of ideas and piggybacking or iterating of each other. The room of a few participants was able to generate 100+ ideas for ways to empathize with customers in just a few minutes.

With rapid ideation and the elaboration of distinct customer personas, the work of developing these services becomes much more intimate. However, in a 90-minute session, it is compressed if not contrived and that had been and has to be acknowledged.

  • Research is fundamental: Developing a persona based on character attributes that are assumed from past experience rather than from direct research associated with a specific product may well lead to a product that is as much of a fiction as the persona.
  • All ideas are not equal: In the process of rapid ideation, it is essential to not judge (in particular to not judge one’s own ideas or to self-censor), but while all ideas are good, that does not mean there are no bad ideas. The goal is to then identify and develop those ideas that are best suited to the local context.

The introduction of these techniques and methodologies is nonetheless valuable and it is hopeful that the participants will be able to devote the time needed to integrate these lessons into their own product designs.

The bottom line of all of these exercises was this: only by walking in DFS users’ shoes—to have a glimpse of their lives and to put at the centre not the technology but real human beings with their complex mix of feelings and logic—can DFS providers make a value case for different types of customers and drive the change that may have a real impact on people’s livelihoods.

 

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.

For more information, please contact
Additional Information

Addressing classic agent network challenges with and for women

Women's Empowerment

Addressing classic agent network challenges with and for women

October 26 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

As agents represent the first and most tangible touch point for most digital financial service (DFS) customers, there is little doubt that having an effective agent network is key to the success of any DFS provider’s operations. Research published by The Helix Institute of Digital Finance in 2015 suggests that agent networks are also probably the most operationally burdensome and costly element of the DFS value chain, and have been shown to cost between 40% and 80% of the revenue generated from the business. This finding means that, if providers are not diligent, their agent networks can end up costing them more than they are worth.

On Day 3 of the #DFS4Women event, Nandini Harihareswara, Regional Technical Specialist for Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) programmes in Malawi and Zambia, moderated a session on ‘Improving classic agent network challenges with and for women.’ The session was facilitated by Junior Kwebiiha, DFS Expert for MM4P Zambia, Melissa Rousset from Helix Institute and Venkata Atluri from MicroSave.

Ms. Harihareswara opened the session by inviting participants to share some of the key challenges they are facing in their markets in terms of growing and sustaining their agent networks. Some of the recurring challenges they reported included the following: managing liquidity and rebalancing, especially in rural areas and also pertaining to agents diverting capital for other purposes than their mobile money businesses; literacy levels of agents and tellers; the gender gap that still exists between male and female agents; connectivity issues that hinder the provision of quality services in areas where the network is bad; agent training with regards to cost, content and methodology of the training approaches used; and lastly, agent profitability.

At this point, Ms. Harihareswara asked participants to reflect on some of the lessons they learned on Days 1 and 2 of the event. On Day 1, some of the participants had the chance to attend the session ‘Agents: Why focus on women?’ There, they received information on women agents and women customers backed by research and experience from providers and agents in different markets. Research and implementation suggest that, compared to male agents, women agents are more profitable, focused and fiscally responsible, provide better quality services to their customers, and are perceived to be more trustworthy and loyal. On Day 2, all participants joined a field exercise in which they were able to use an innovative data collection tool developed by Optimetriks to capture pertinent information on agents and customers, including women.

After reflecting on Days 1 and 2, Ms. Harihareswara invited audience members to engage in an intensive thought exercise about how they could leverage the assets of women—as agents and customers—to solve some of the agent network challenges they had identified at the beginning of the session. The facilitators were on hand to steer the discussion of participants, who were separated into small groups, and help them think through their ideas in a logical manner. At the end of the exercise, participants from each small group shared their results with the whole group.

The first group presented savings groups as one solution to the agent liquidity issue, including in rural areas were savings groups are common and heavily populated by female members. The reasoning behind this approach is that savings group members have accounts at banks and could translate their balances into e-value and keep their cash equivalent in banks. The banks could then potentially support any member of the savings group who wanted to become an agent. A representative from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who was in the audience invited any other participants that were interested in linking savings groups to formal financial institutions to consult with CRS, as it has done some studies on mapping savings group locations and characteristics in different regions.

The second group tackled the issue of training and suggested ways to make trainings more cost efficient and effective. One idea was to conduct trainings via videos shared through mobile phones. Another was to identify key agents within different communities who could take on the responsibility of training a set of agents. One provider brought up the key point that providers should explore ways of providing trainings in local languages to make them easier to understand and remember. Building off the lessons from Day 1 and the fact that women are considered trustworthy and also more patient and empathetic, providers could use this solution as a means of recruiting and training women ‘super agents’ who in turn could recruit and train more women agents and tellers. The group also suggested using fraud teams to help women agents who have been identified as being high risk and easy targets for fraud. Agent forums were also suggested as a means of disseminating important information throughout agent networks, since information is more likely to be well received from a peer than from a provider in a suit. Lastly, the group suggested that agent networks could be made more inclusive by inviting men to come with the women in their networks and providing incentives for women to become agents.

The last group focused on how to be more deliberate in the agent recruitment process so as to capture and retain more women agents. The group suggested that one approach could be to develop a more complete understanding of the life cycle of a woman to identify at what points she is most likely to be receptive to the idea of becoming an agent, the reasons why her agency business could become dormant and what could be done to help address these pain points. One suggestion to involve more women was to make the on-boarding process a bit less intense and also more incentivized. Another suggestion was to identify women influencers in the community and use them to target potential women agents through churches, savings groups, etc. It all boiled down to developing a value proposition for women and why they should become agents.

After this exercise, the group from Helix Institute briefly shared some of their knowledge on innovative agent models currently being tested in various markets. In the first model, the shared agent network model, the same set of agents serves a group of providers through the technology platform of the shared agent network provider. The providers’ role is limited to signing up and managing the performance of the agent network. This model is currently being used by MobiCash in Bangladesh, where the network has over 30,000 agents and partners with six different banks. In the second model, the roving agent model, agents provide doorstep service to customers. The group pointed out that most of the activities of roving agents seem to be focused on gaining new customers and educating them on the use of the services offered. A successful implementation of this model is in Pakistan where Telenor uses roving agents to market its mobile money product, Easypaisa.

The third and probably the most innovative agent distribution model in the market at the moment is the Uber-type model for cash-in/cash-out agents. What’s interesting about this model is that it enables customers to act as liquidity merchants, mimicking what Uber has done for transportation. In India, Eko is currently trying out this model by using its Fundu app to match customers who want to cash out with customers who can enable such transactions. The jury is still out on how much traction this model is likely to gain over time.

By the end of the session, participants left with the following key take-aways: they had identified the key challenges facing their agent networks and brainstormed a number of ways in which women might help solve some of these problems; and, they left with an idea of some of the innovative ways in which other DFS markets are structuring their agent networks. The challenge remaining is to see what they will they choose to do with all this information and what steps will they take towards incorporating women agents when it comes to restructuring their agent networks to increase customer acquisition and profitability.

 

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.

For more information, please contact
Additional Information

DFS4WOMEN – Learning and sharing event by UNCDF MM4P

Women's Empowerment

DFS4WOMEN – Learning and sharing event by UNCDF MM4P

October 24th – 26th, 2016
October 23 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

It is widely recognized that including women in the financial arena has a significant socio-economic benefit. However, research by the GSMA Connected Women programme estimates that “women are on average 14% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which translates in 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones” in low and middle income countries. Moreover, the gap goes beyond the ownership between women and men and leads to a gap in usage of mobile internet and other services come with this.

Underserving women or more accurately not considering their barriers and needs by assuming they face the same as men, leads to no uptake and usage of DFS by women. As GSMA mentions “Closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage could unlock an estimated $170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry in the period from 2015 to 2020”. Women represent 51% of the population and including women by addressing their constraint could potentially impact businesses, DFS providers and economies in the least developed countries (LDCs).

In order to address the solutions to reduce the gender gap in mobile internet and DFS and to share the experience in this field, the UNCDF programme Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) – in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the MasterCard Foundation) – is organizing an event called DFS4WOMEN in Kampala on October 24-26, 2016.

The event focuses on what the private sector can do and is doing to reach out to rural areas with DFS and in particular women. Exposing participants to the Uganda Digital Finance market and creating the opportunity for face to face knowledge and experience sharing are among the key objectives of the event which will lead to strengthening the programmes community of practice across 8 countries.

The three day event DFS4women includes a field visit which aims at collecting data via an App. As participant return from their interviews of clients and agents, they analyze the data through an online dashboard created as a result of their activity. The visit will illustrate the benefits of using data in product development. This will help to increase capacity among partners to collect and use data as well as use research findings from different sources.

To learn more about this event and follow the blog of the programme in this space, visit http://mm4p.uncdf.org/our-learnings/dfs4women or follow @UNCDFMM4P.


About MM4P

Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a programme launched by UNCDF in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. MM4P provides support to digital financial services (DFS) in a selected group of lest developed countries (LDCs) to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust DFS ecosystem that reaches low income people in LDCs.

For more information, visit https://mm4p.uncdf.org or follow @UNCDFMM4P and Mobile Money for The Poor


About UNCDF

UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs). With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. This last mile is where available resources for development are scarcest; where market failures are most pronounced; and where benefits from national growth tend to leave people excluded.  

For more information, please contact
Karima Wardak
Knowledge Management Associate Digital Finance, MM4P
Additional Information
Karima Wardak
Knowledge Management Associate Digital Finance, MM4P
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