Nigeria confronts a challenging financial inclusion gender gap: a case study of policy change to support women’s financial inclusion.
To complement the release of a discussion paper by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and Women’s World Banking, the organisations co-developed this case study report to examine the specific experience of Nigeria. While the country has seen promising approaches to gender-focused financial inclusion policies, efforts have faced a challenging environment that has seen the gender-gap in access to an account in a financial institution rise from 7.3% to 20.7% between 2010 and 2014.
The case study examines gender differences in access to financial inclusion, noting that a fragmented market has yet to make serious inroads in the adoption of mobile-based money that holds such promise for under-served sectors such as women, and those without accounts with commercial banks. In 2014, the number of men with an account at a financial institution was 54.3%, compared to just 33.6% of women.
Barriers and opportunities for women’s financial inclusion are then discussed, with major barriers identified being: lack of income; difficulty with physical access, be it distance or a “bricks and mortar” approach that does not work for women; lack of financial literacy; affordability; and eligibility. These barriers, together with a lack of trust and technological illiteracy, also apply as barriers to mobile banking.
Despite the slow uptake of mobile banking, it is still perceived as a potentially game-changing opportunity, so long as early adoption is encouraged to expand beyond young, urban males. In order to help with this effort, the case study presents recommendations including: increasing focus on the value proposition of women’s financial inclusion, better gender-disaggregated data collection and research, reforms to legal and regulatory frameworks to create space for innovation, the development of financial infrastructure and interoperability of payment platforms, and financial education and literacy programmes.