The cost of using financial services is a key barrier to their adoption and use in low- and middle-income countries — and when it comes to mobile money transactions via M-Pesa in Kenya, those costs are greater for women, according to a recent study. Bryan Pon at Caribou Data shares details about the study's findings, and explains how understanding these gender differences could illuminate some of the obstacles women face when using digital financial services – and help inform policy or system design approaches that could address these challenges.
Winning the Low-Income Market: Assessing the State of Product Development in the Nigerian Financial Service Industry
Nigeria's financial inclusion goals have gone unmet, and the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress even further. Olayinka David-West and Ibukun Taiwo of the Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Financial Services initiative of the Lagos Business School share the results of their 2020 study on the state of the Nigerian market, exploring the product development practices of the country's financial service providers – and how they could be improved.
‘The First Wealth is Health’: Exploring the European Microfinance Award 2021’s Focus on Inclusive Finance and Health Care
For the global poor, health is often the dividing line between the path to prosperity or a slide into destitution. Daniel Rozas and Sam Mendelson of e-MFP explain how precarious incomes and the absence of high-quality universal health care can push low-income households into a deeper cycle of poverty. As a response to the issue, the European Microfinance Award is seeking to highlight initiatives that facilitate access to quality and affordable health care with this year's €100,000 award, which focuses on the topic of "Inclusive Finance and Health Care."
Achieving an Equitable COVID-19 Recovery Through Safe Housing: Why it’s Time for Financial Institutions to Step Up
Over 1.5 billion people around the world live in crowded housing with limited sanitary amenities — and during COVID-19, these households are at a particularly high risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Patrick McAllister explains how private-sector financial institutions can play a critical role in achieving equitable social and economic COVID-19 recovery by supporting home-related financing for low-income essential workers.
Better Loans for Better Homes: A New Assessment Tool Helps Microfinance Institutions Increase Their Housing Impact
Most housing in developing countries is self-built and incremental, and these homeowners frequently turn to microfinance institutions (MFIs) to finance it. But according to Naeem Razwani and Jitendra Balanirom of Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and Olivia Nielsen of Miyamoto International, this type of construction process can lead to severe quality and structural issues – while also increasing the lending risk for MFIs. They discuss how a new assessment tool can help these lenders understand and optimize the impact of their home loans to better meet the needs of this market.
‘Back in the U.S.S.D.’: Most Smartphone Owners—Especially Women—Don’t Use Apps for Financial Services
The global transition from basic mobile phones to smartphones has impacted nearly every sector, including financial services. Bryan Pon from Caribou Data considers whether this shift will help or hinder access to mobile money and digital finance for women in emerging markets — a group already less likely to be using these services. He shares the findings of a comprehensive study on how payment system design could impact gender bias in digital finance, and discusses the ongoing popularity — and under-recognized advantages — of old-fashioned USSD codes in mobile money.
In the Race for Dominance in African Fintech, Partnerships With Phone Makers Are Transforming the Landscape
Corporate partnerships and acquisitions have proliferated in Africa's fintech sector in recent years, as companies fight for dominance in the growing digital payment space. Digital economy analyst Jill Lagos Shemin highlights an emerging element of this trend: alliances between mobile phone makers and payment providers and telecom operators. She explores how these partnerships can boost customer access to smartphones and digital credit, while expanding Africa's digital finance ecosystem and building tech players' footprint in this sought-after market.
Activating a Network of 4 Million: Community Health Workers are Key to Fighting COVID-19 – Here’s How They Can Accelerate Financial Inclusion
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the role of community health workers. According to Tanjila Mazumder Drishti, Khondokar Anwar Shadat and Raiya Kishwar Ashraf at BRAC, it has also demonstrated their potential as proponents of financial access — for themselves and the families they serve. They explore a BRAC initiative to enroll its 50,000 health workers in Bangladesh in mobile money, and share how this scalable model could have enormous implications for global financial inclusion.