Wednesday, 19 December 2012 11:13 | James Barton
A new partnership is aiming to foster women’s entrepreneurship in the African mobile financial services industry. Millicom International Cellular and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women are partnering with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the goal of providing over 4,000 women throughout Tanzania, Ghana and Rwanda with support and training to set up a business as a Tigo Mobile Money agent, contributing to financial inclusion for themselves and thousands of other people.
Research published by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in November 2011 revealed that, while there are many women engaged in the distribution networks of mobile operators in Africa, they are, in large proportion, in non-managerial positions. The new partnership is the first proactive attempt to work specifically with women entrepreneurs to support them in becoming successful Mobile Money agents.
According to recent reports from the World Bank, an estimated 2.5 billion working-age adults globally have no access to formalised financial services. This number represents more than half the total global population of working-age adults. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has the largest unbanked population, with only 12% of the region’s population having access to any form of formalised banking.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Millicom and USAID will be working with over 4,000 women entrepreneurs over an 18-month period. Participants will not only derive an income from this activity, but they will also contribute to the financial inclusion of thousands of people who will have access to mobile financial services as a result. The women involved will have access to 12-month working capital loans for their mobile money businesses distributed by local MFI partners through Millicom’s mobile financial services platform. They will also benefit from business skills training on financial literacy which will be an important component of the training curriculum. According to a GSMA study, a significant gender-gap exists in the adoption of mobile services in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are 23% less likely to own a mobile device. It is hoped that having more women agents will increase the number of women who benefit from mobile services.
Speaking on the issue, Cherie Blair said: “Women entrepreneurs stand to gain a great deal from selling mobile money products. With the right business training and working capital available, women entrepreneurs can benefit from being part of a mobile operator's value chain. Setting up mobile sales provides additional household income and the opportunity for these women to be financially independent.”
USAID Chief Innovation Officer, Maura O’Neill, remarked: “Our opportunity to economically empower women through powerful, wide-reaching mobile technologies is more realisable now than ever before. But our ability to succeed requires coordinated and collective action. The components of this partnership are ground-breaking, and we are excited to watch them unfold for the benefit of women and their families in Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana.”
Hans-Holger Albrecht, President and CEO for Millicom commented: “The initiative will deliver financial literacy and business development training for the women entrepreneurs to support them in managing their mobile money agent business.”
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