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INSIGHTS: Enhancing women's access to financial services in northern Nigeria through female mobile money agent networks

“Women will benefit from being able to carry out transactions on their phone, especially in this part of the country where the man is usually in control of everything including the household expenses. Mobile money can help the woman control and monitor her money better without a man and it will even be safe.”

Male agent, Kaduna

Despite being the continent’s largest economy, access to financial services in Nigeria is still a challenge for millions of people, particularly in rural areas, leading to an estimated 55% of the total population remaining unbanked (EfFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria Survey 2020).

Recent research has highlighted challenges women in northern Nigeria are facing, including poverty, a lack of financial empowerment, a lack of opportunity to compete in business, a lack of access to credit facilities and high unemployment. It is, however, a region with a high level of potential demand despite insufficient financial access points and there is growing evidence that increasing the number of women agents could attract more female clients due to social norms and safety concerns about interacting with male agents.

This grant supports Y’ello Digital Financial Services (YDFS), a fintech to facilitate greater gender inclusion by exploring the potential role of women in agency banking to increase women’s adoption of digital financial services. The research, which includes a feasibility study, women-focused design and testing, will focus on both agents and customers to provide insights into women’s use of mobile money services.

Y’ello Digital Financial Services (YDFS) are conducting human-centred design research to gather insights through a feasibility study on the supply and demand for a women-led agent network in the Northern part of Nigeria, identifying key drivers for women’s empowerment and women’s access to and usage of financial services.

Early insights show that, for many women in Northern Nigeria, lack of income remains a persistent issue to limit their use of digital financial solutions, but also barriers resulting from cultural and social norms such as lack of financial education and patriarchal culture which impacts financial empowerment and economic activity of women.

The research also shows that, unlike men, rural women are less able to meet the required conditions and collateral for loans demanded by commercial banks, limiting their access to such facilities, except when special government policy initiatives and programmes are introduced.

However, there have been efforts in recent years to address these issues and promote financial inclusion of women in the region. Additionally, in Nigeria, there has been a growing recognition of the potential economic benefits of increased female participation in the workforce and the need to address the barriers that prevent women from accessing and providing financial services. Unfortunately there is still a long way to go to achieve true cultural and economic empowerment of women in Northern Nigeria through financial inclusion.

“It is very rare to see a woman that is a mobile money agent because it is mostly the men that are doing it. Out of 10 mobile money agents that we have in our community, maybe only one or two are women.”

18-29 year old, female customer, Gombe

“There are several women here that do not trust the banks because of an issue that they or someone else has experienced, so they don’t even want to hear anything like their money is on their phone, they believe they can be easily defrauded. ”
18-29 year old, female customer, Kano


For more information on the project, see here.

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