FinEquity Blog

Reshaping Realities for Women’s Financial Inclusion in Africa

FinEquity Africa 2024 Convening Takeaways
Five seated speakers facing an audience at a convention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On March 14, FinEquity Africa had its first Annual Convening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  

FinEquity Africa is the regional branch of FinEquity – a global community of practice hosted by CGAP dedicated to empowering women through financial inclusion. FinEquity Africa’s goal is to promote equitable access to and use of financial services across Africa by accelerating knowledge generation, fostering best practices, and encouraging sector collaboration in the region. The regional hub is rapidly growing and currently reaches over 800 people. 

The event was co-hosted with FinEquity Africa’s three knowledge partners, Graça Machel Trust (GMT), the Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Network, and Digital Frontiers Institute (DFI). Many other partner organizations built workshops, visits, and events around the FinEquity Africa agenda to create an in-depth suite of learning and exchange opportunities on women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion in Africa.

FinEquity 2024 Annual Convening

The opening plenary brought together Sophie Mills, Lead for Gender at the FSD Network, Dr. Tapiwa Uchizi Nyasulu-Rweyemamu, Women and Gender Policy and Development Lead at the African Union, Tariro Nyimo, Head of Stakeholder Engagement & Fundraising at DFI, and Dr. Theopista Ntale Sekitto, Country Director for New Faces New Voices Uganda Chapter at the Graça Machel Trust. The panel discussed how, in Africa, the intersection of social norms, gender dynamics, and climate change presents a complex landscape that significantly impacts financial inclusion for women. Social norms dictate the roles and responsibilities of women within their communities and households, often limiting their access to economic opportunities. Simultaneously, climate change amplifies existing vulnerabilities, disproportionately affecting women who are often responsible for securing food, water, and energy resources for their families. Recognizing these intersections is crucial for devising strategies that empower women economically, foster climate resilience, and challenge traditional gender norms.    

In the plenary session, GRID Impact presented research examining a set of 35 barriers inhibiting women’s access to and usage of financial services in Africa. The goal of their research is to determine which barriers are most relevant to specific segments of women in different markets, and make recommendations about interventions that might help remove, mitigate, or address them. Their research focuses on nine countries, five of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.  

To better-understand the barriers facing different types of women, the research uses Global Findex data to categorize women into four segments along the financial inclusion journey, with Segment 1 representing the most marginalized and Segment 4 representing included and active users of financial services. This map developed by GRID Impact shows the largest segment of women by country in Africa: while Segment 1 is the largest segment of women in Nigeria, and Segment 3 is the largest for Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, the spread between segments differs significantly. Segment 3 in Kenya is the largest by a much greater margin than in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Further analysis, relying primarily on 2017 and 2021 Findex was used to determine which barriers are more or less relevant for specific segments in specific markets.  


Workshop: Learning from climate-smart financial solutions that work for women  

Across the globe, the impacts of climate shocks are intensifying existing gender gaps—in Africa, for example, women rely more on natural resources and climate-sensitive sectors for a living than men. These gender disparities leave women more vulnerable to climate change shocks, facing greater food scarcity, displacement, and an increasing number of off-farm responsibilities. These challenges in turn lead to greater risks of malnutrition, gender-based violence, and young women dropping out of school to help their mothers with the increased workload. 

Three FinEquity Africa Community members – FSD Africa, FSD Network and Village Enterprise – shared the work they are doing to support the development of innovative financial products and services, such as insurance and credit, that allow women to build resilience in the face of climate change and to mitigate and adapt to climate challenges. Village Enterprise talked about how they are helping women by creating productive livelihoods that are less vulnerable to shocks with an adapted graduation-style economic inclusion model that encourages the take-up of climate-smart agriculture technologies.  FSDA talked about the opportunity for financial service providers (FSPs) to leverage new, innovative gender bonds to support the roll-out of products that help women cope with climate shocks and stresses. FSD network spoke on the need for FSPs to encourage participation and leadership of women in product and service design.


Breakout: From compass to map – policy and women’s financial inclusion   
Four women discussing around two tables at a convention.

This session moderated by CGAP aimed to unpack the policy layers to women’s financial inclusion: from national strategies to central bank circulars. A multi-layered approach is required in the policy space to advance gender equality in financial inclusion and empower women entrepreneurs.  Panelists Brenda Mwanza, Assistant Director- Financial Sector Development, Bank of Zambia and Audrey Hove, Senior Policy Manager, Gender Inclusive Finance at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion shared experiences and perspectives on applying a gender lens at various levels of policy, regulation, and supervision, highlighting how their approaches intend to overcome contextual barriers. They agreed that in order to advance women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion for women in Africa, policy and regulation need to evolve. As non-policymakers, most of the FinEquity Africa community of practice can support this work by (1) raising the profile of inequities, challenges, and places where reforms should be targeted through advocacy efforts, and (2) collecting data that supports the design of informed regulatory proposals.  

Networking Cocktail

The FinEquity Africa Annual Convening was followed by a cocktail networking event funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Many connections were made!  

People at a networking cocktail.

Partner Events

  1. On the morning of March 13, the Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion (WDFI) Advocacy Hub, housed at Women’s World Banking in partnership with UNCDF, held a Cross-Coalition Learning Exchange  during which Ethiopian and Indonesian coalition members reflected on similarities and differences in their financial inclusion ecosystems, and how best to advocate for women’s digital financial inclusion in each context. Both coalitions emphasized the importance of collaboration across sectors to drive impactful change. This learning exchange was followed by the “Inclusive Policy to Accelerate Progress: Sharing Experiences in Driving Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion” session, which featured a fireside chat offering both global and regional perspectives on barriers and policy opportunities for women’s digital financial inclusion. It concluded with two insightful case study presentations from Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs and the National Bank of Ethiopia.   
  2. On the afternoon of March 13, UNCDF and WDFI Ethiopia conducted a workshop on agent  banking to promote financial inclusion for women. This is in line with the Ethiopian National Financial Inclusion Directive that views agent banking as a vital tool to achieve the goal of financial inclusion. The workshop highlighted the importance of sex-disaggregated data, which breaks down information by gender. This data is essential to understanding the specific financial need of women and developing targeted financial products. Additionally, the workshop emphasized the need for supportive regulatory frameworks that mandate sex disaggregation of data. This allows for better data analysis and the creation of more effective policies. The workshop explored strategies to overcome sociocultural norms and operational challenges limiting women's participation as financial agents. Encouraging more women to become agents can significantly increase accessibility and build trust among other women in the community. There is also a need for innovation in financial products and services to address women's specific needs. The workshop underscored the importance of building trust, visibility, and accessibility for women within the agent network. 

  3. On the morning of March 14, Financial Sector Deepening Ethiopia (FSDE) organized an event on women’s financial inclusion in Ethiopia and beyond. GRID Impact shared new findings showing that many Ethiopian women remain excluded from financial services due to low digital literacy and a lack of products that meet their needs. Read the takeout from FSDE event.

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