Action 5

Develop Accessible Supporting Infrastructures and Networks

Creating an environment supportive of women’s financial inclusion involves the development of appropriate infrastructure and networks, including interoperable digital payment systems, inclusive identity-registration systems, and collateral registries. While these infrastructural elements are equally important for expanding access for both men and women, ease of access may have a greater impact on women’s uptake and usage of DFS.

It is crucial that authorities use a gender lens to ensure that the constraints that women face in accessing and using DFS are accounted for, through policy and infrastructure, as well as by collaborating with other sectors of government.

Action 5

Designing Gender-Inclusive Identity Systems

Identification is almost always a requirement when opening an account, be it a traditional bank account or a mobile money wallet. In addition, SIM cards, which are required to operate a mobile phone and mobile money account, also call for identification. Universal access to formal identification is foundational in achieving national financial inclusion objectives.

Unfortunately, a lack of ID documentation is one of the most commonly cited barriers to financial inclusion. Globally, one in five unbanked women say identification is a key barrier to opening an account (Women’s World Banking 2021). Sub-Saharan Africa has low rates of identity registration among women, as compared to other regions; 105 million adults (16 percent of adults) in Sub-Saharan Africa lack a bank account and an ID, and women are five percentage points more likely than men to lack an ID (Klapper, Singer, and Ansar 2021). Without an ID, women are unable to open bank accounts or obtain SIM cards for mobile phones.

Ensuring that identity-registration processes are easy, conducive, and supportive of all applicants should be a policy imperative for policy makers. The following are actions that authorities and policy makers can undertake to build inclusive ID systems.

Assess identity-registration legislation and processes with a gender lens

To assess identity legislation from a gender perspective, the following guiding questions can be used as a starting point to determine the gender-specific issues in the identity-registration processes:

  • Does the process for identity registration for women differ from that for men? If yes, how so?
  • What obstacles—physical, social, or legal—do women encounter along the journey to obtain identification?
  • What restrictions are there? How much are these obstacles derived from specific legal rules?
  • Should registration procedures be revisited and updated to ensure that women are not being discriminated against?

Develop women-friendly registration processes

  • In addition to legal constraints, the cost of the application process and the costs (time/transport) of accessing registration centers are often burdens on women, who may have less discretionary income and ease of movement than men. Ensuring that registration processes and spaces are accessible and comfortable for women can ease some of these burdens. Accomplishing this may include the following:
  • Opening women-only registration counters that are staffed entirely by women. This approach was trialed in conservative areas of Pakistan and significantly boosted application numbers.
  • Employing mobile registration services that bring enrollment closer to women’s homes, easing the transport and time cost of registering for an ID.

DFS. When a market is monopolized by a small number of DFS providers and interoperability is absent, there is less competition and incentives are lacking for FSPs to understand women’s needs and create the right products for them. Moreover, it creates inefficiencies and limits the use case of digital payments.

For example, if a mobile agent is able to cash out only certain wallets, users of other wallets will not be able to access their funds through that agent. Similarly, if a mobile wallet is not accepted for certain bills or transactions, users will need to find alternative payment methods, which can be inconvenient and time consuming, forcing people to manage multiple accounts and choose which one to use depending on the nature of the transaction and the counterpart (CPMI 2016). For women who possess lower levels of DFL and are less sure of the benefits of DFS, toggling between multiple accounts does not simplify their onboarding or build a clearer use case for them; women already have several barriers to entry in accessing the financial system.

As women are traditionally underrepresented consumers, there is an expectation that they will gain more from new market entrants as a result of interoperability. Level 1 Project research commissioned by the BMGF reveals that women in Côte d’Ivoire, which has a less developed DFS market invested a significant amount of time and resources into transferring funds, which could have been avoided in the presence of a robust interoperable system (DFS Lab, Caribou Digital, and Caribou Data 2021).

Ultimately, promoting interoperability can increase competition, reduce costs, and improve access to financial services, promoting financial inclusion and economic development for women (GSMA 2016; Ray 2023).

Country Examples

Link to Senegal case studies
Link to Pakistan case studies
Link to Tanzania case studies