Policy Brief: Advancing African Women's Financial Inclusion

Published: October 2012

This policy brief offers to African policy makers (governments, central banks, regulatory and supervisory authorities) and other stakeholders involved in the policy making process (networks, associations and other civil society organizations, as well as donor agencies) a set of high priority policy recommendations designed to advance African women's financial inclusion. While recognizing that broad societal and economic change is fundamental to empowering women to engage fully in society and in the economy, this brief focuses on policies related to financial sector development that fosters women's access to finance, itself a sound development proposition

Key Findings

  • North Africa: The 2011 Global Findex data on four North African countries (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia) provide a picture of wide differences in financial inclusion and, within all four countries, far greater gender disparity in access to finance than in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the determining factors for this disparity being business practices as well as the regulatory environment. In the four countries, the percentage of women with bank accounts at formal financial institutions is consistently half that of men, ranging from 6.5% (women) and 12.8% (men) in Egypt and 26.7% (women) and 52.0% (men) in Morocco. Loans are sourced primarily from family and friends, with varying gender disparity. In Morocco, 39.2% of women took loans from family or friends, whereas the corresponding figure for men was 42.6%. Access to bank credit does not meet demand. 47% of Tunisian women have some bank credit, but 76% of those who sought additional financing in the past year were not successful in borrowing, the main constraints being high interest rates and lack of collateral (GPFI, 2011).
  • In the four North African countries, men are significantly more likely to save, with the least gender disparity in Tunisia and the highest in Egypt, where men are twice as likely to save. Both Egyptian men and women are the least likely to save in the region, in comparison with the other three countries.
  • Available data show a low level of access to financial services for both women and men across Africa. Within this regional context, men's access and usage is consistently ahead of that of women, although less dramatically so in Sub-Saharan Africa than in North Africa, where the gender gap is greater.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa : Women lag behind men in holding accounts at formal financial institutions. Overall, only 21.5% of women in Sub-Saharan Africa held accounts at formal financial institutions, compared to 26.5% of men in the region. Savings rates show a significant gender gap: 42.9% of men saved during the preceding 12 months, compared to 37.6% of women. Saving for emergencies, by both men and women, was the first reason cited (33.7% and 29% respectively), ahead of saving for future expenses (27.9% and 24.1% respectively). An important consideration here is that women are saving at higher rates at informal institutions than at formal institutions, meaning that their savings rates are actually higher and that there is more opportunity to shift savings to formal institutions.
  • The percentage of Sub-Saharan Africans taking a loan from a formal financial institution was only 5.2% for men and 4.3% for women, with loans coming primarily from "family or friends": 48.3% for men and 45.3% for women. The extent of purchases of insurance policies was very limited for both men and women, with the most striking difference registered for agricultural insurance (11.2% of men and 6.2% of women paid for crop, rainfall or livestock insurance in the previous 12 months).
  • In terms of mobile money transactions in SubSaharan Africa, receiving money is the most often cited use, with 15.5% of men receiving funds via mobile phones as compared to 13.6% of women.

Populations Women

Industries Business, Finance

Publishers Making Finance Work for Africa

Geographic Focus Africa

Funded by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)