Infrastructural and Regulatory Barriers

Infrastructural and Regulatory Barriers

Lack of Reliable Mobile, Electric, and Internet Connectivity

While access to reliable internet connectivity affects both men and women, for women residing in rural areas, poor or no mobile internet coverage and an absence of agent channels can serve as a barrier to accessing DFS.

Additionally, access to electricity is essential for phone use, and for women residing in remote off-grid localities, keeping their phones charged can be a challenge in everyday use. According to research with agropastoralist communities in Tanzania, in the absence of a reliable electric supply, mobile users often rely on off-grid methods (such as generators and car batteries) to charge their phones. While men are able to go to local shops to access these energy sources and charge their phones, limited mobility may hinder women from doing the same. As a result, women users reported leaving their phones uncharged for days (Summers et al. 2020).

Discriminatory Laws

Many countries still have discriminatory laws in place that keep women from acquiring property, accessing credit, or applying for a formal ID document, which has critical financial inclusion implications. For example, in Benin and Pakistan, the application process for applying for a formal ID for married women is more cumbersome than it is for married men (World Bank Group 2021). In Egypt, inheritance laws restrict women’s right to property. Financial institutions often require collateral or assets as security when providing loans or lines of credit. Without equal inheritance rights, women face difficulties in meeting these requirements, leading to a significant disadvantage in accessing financial resources. This limited access to credit impedes women’s entrepreneurial aspirations and hampers their potential for economic growth and empowerment (AWEF 2020). In this context, building credit history and proving creditworthiness can be challenging for women.

Absence of Credit Bureaus and Burdensome Credit-Assessment Requirements

Collateral is typically required by financial institutions before extending credit to SMEs, and this often presents a problem for women-owned enterprises. In the absence of credit bureaus and registries, imperfect information on creditworthiness and borrower risk prevails in the market, which adversely affects pricing as well as the volume of loans extended. While information asymmetries affect both men and women consumers, women tend to be further down the ladder, as they often have limited assets to their name. According to the World Bank, close to 40 percent of the world’s economies have at least one legal constraint on women’s rights to property, limiting their ability to own, manage, and inherit land (GPFI 2020)—impeding their ability to receive loans.

Restrictive regulations around credit-assessment requirements that rely on traditional financial data may also serve as a barrier to women’s access to credit, as they often lack credit histories.

Lower Credit Card Limits for Women Consumers

There have been multiple reported instances in recent years of discriminatory credit-evaluation algorithms that resulted in lower credit card limits being provided to women consumers. Because the algorithms that make these decisions are created by people. They often reproduce human prejudices (either mistakenly or on purpose), which have a proven negative impact on women and people of color.


Blascak and Tranfaglia (2021); Klein (2020).

Restrictive Know-Your-Customer Requirements

Globally, one in five women cite the lack of necessary documents as a key barrier to owning a financial account (GPFI 2020). Stringent know-your-customer (KYC) requirements and non-risk-based approaches to customer due diligence can serve as an additional bottleneck for women who are already financially and economically excluded.