Making Digital Finance Work for Women in the MENA Region

Eight lessons from the field

Despite progress over the past few years, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region still has the largest gender gap in terms of women’s economic participation in the world. This economic divide also holds true for financial inclusion - only 35 percent of women have a financial account compared to 52 percent for men (Global Findex). While the challenges are significant, so are the opportunities. Innovative digital financial services (DFS) have strong potential to accelerate women’s financial empowerment.

This Practitioner Learning Brief explores these opportunities and challenges by showcasing 14 case studies from the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) and other organizations working in the region. It presents eight key lessons on how to design and implement interventions that can pave the way for women’s digital financial empowerment across MENA and beyond. The Brief aims to spark a discussion on opportunities to make digital finance work better for low-income women, by answering four key questions:

  • How can we reconceptualize digital finance in the context of Market Systems Development (MSD) and Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) frameworks?
  • What are the key opportunities and gender-related challenges associated with the digitization of finance in MENA?
  • What lessons have AWEF and other practitioners observed from the field when building inclusive DFS ecosystems?
  • How can we move beyond digital financial inclusion and advance approaches in digital financial empowerment?

About this Publication

By Chloe Gueguen, Julia Hakspiel & Sabal Majali