Paper

Women Make the Best DFS Agents: How Financial Sector Alternative Delivery Channels Create Business Opportunities for Women in Emerging Markets

Gender as a factor when building a successful agent network in the DRC

This study is the first in the research series that examines the difference in performance between male and female agents. As owners of small-scale businesses, men and women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) begin their agent roles from a base of different business models. Female-owned businesses are often based in commercially more difficult locations, and they generate revenue by selling more but cheaper products, putting more resources into a presumably more diverse inventory of low-cost products. Men, on the other hand, do higher value sales in locations close to other businesses and banks, while not reinvesting as much into their businesses, as indicated by higher bank account balances.

New business opportunities are being created for microentrepreneurs by digital financial services (DFS) and agent banking in Sub-Saharan Africa. The agents who deliver these financial services are mostly small-scale retailers or service providers, such as beauty parlors, tailors or convenience stores. Although women entrepreneurs generally find it more difficult to start, run and grow their businesses due to a discriminatory environment, this study in the DRC reveals that the microfinance institution FINCA has attracted a high number of female-run businesses as agents and these businesses outperform their male counterparts in both number and value of transactions.