AWEF undertook a financial sector mapping to identify the constraints to women’s access to, and use of, financial services while harnessing the power of digital financial services to drive female financial inclusion and economic empowerment.
By making financial services more widely available and lowering costs and barriers to access finance, financial technology (fintech) can democratise financial services to the masses.
AWEF (Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund), FCDO
In a bid to accelerate women’s financial inclusion in MENA the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) led a study to understand the scope for Digital Financial Services (DFS) in Egypt, map key constraints to women’s financial inclusion, and identify opportunities to transform the livelihoods of low income Egyptian women through improved access to finance.
You may also view this case study as a downloadable pdf.
The private sector is an essential partner for WEE programmes. By adopting business practices that include and support women as workers, consumers, producers and suppliers, companies can not only make an important contribution to the process of WEE, but also expand their market, achieve greater business efficiency, and improve their bottom line.
When it comes to WEE programming, women are often primarily regarded in their role as employees and suppliers or producers. AWEF has implemented several interesting programmes that focus on women in their role as consumers. In Egypt, AWEF conducted an elaborate study to learn more about the barriers women were facing to access financial services. In 2019, only 27% of adult women had a financial account (versus 39% for men). At the same time, the huge rise in DFS offered promising opportunities to further increase women’s access and agency over financial resources – both at the microenterprise and household levels. The study outlined three types of constraints for accessing financial services:
While not specific to women only, these constraints appeared to be experienced by women in a more acute way.
In a bid to bridge these constraints while capitalising on the fast growing digital finance ecosystem, AWEF developed a strategy to help poor women scale the financial inclusion pyramid in Egypt:
Finally, AWEF’s experience in the DFS sector in the MENA region resulted in eight important lessons learned for making DFS work for women (included on the right), including to integrate non-financial services into DSF delivery, expand the access to universal digital identities to help low-income women build their credit history and invest in sex-disaggregated data.