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INSIGHTS: Investing in innovative research approaches to understand and address barriers to financial inclusion for women

Like many of women across Africa, Judith Laokwali, from the Kano region in Northern Nigeria, runs her own small business as a fashion designer, making clothes for customers in her community. However, due to limited access to finance, given her remote location and scant penetration of banking services, she sometimes experiences challenges with customer payments. Additionally, her community’s social and cultural norms can limit interaction with men, restricting her income opportunities.

Overcoming the barriers that limit access to digital solutions for millions of financially excluded women, youth, rural dwellers and small-business owners can boost their financial inclusion and economic participation in their communities.

 Video credit: IBST/YDFS/ADFI

ADFI has been investing in innovative research approaches such as human-centred design (HCD) to gain understanding of the barriers to access and use of digital financial solutions. This approach places participants at the centre of the process, co-creating responsive and inclusive products and services relevant to the last mile. Intentionally designed to be appropriate, affordable and accessible, these solutions provide some of the most powerful tools to build resilience, mitigate risk and achieve their potential, particularly for those who have been marginalised.

Yello Digital Financial Services Ltd, a fintech subsidiary of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, is using human-centred research to develop a gender-focussed network of women mobile money (MoMo) agents that can overcome barriers, including cultural and social norms, to access for women customers. In addition, they will train women entrepreneurs like Judith Laokwali on digital financial solutions to increase their economic activity. 

For Judith, her participation in this research will inform MTN Nigeria's development of female mobile money agent networks that can help enable women to access digital financial solutions while overcoming cultural and social norms that limit contact with men. Becoming an agent also means her earning potential could increase.

Becoming a MoMo agent, she said, “will help me boost myself with my customers. If they say they want to pay with money, I will have ways for them to withdraw … and not for them to tell me that the transfer is not working, and they should go to another place.” 

Human-centred design research was also used to inform the development of digital credit solutions that offer flexible and tailored loan repayment solutions and the opportunity to access digital credit using PAYG smartphone combined with other data as collateral. In addition, this approach informed responsive microinsurance for women smallholder farmers in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia, resulting in the registration of over 1.49M farmers of which 700,000 were women.

For more information on the ADFI-supported HCD projects, please visit ADFI projects

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Gender Inclusivity
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