It is a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in the financial and technology sectors. The median age in Africa is 19: in order for the continent to capitalise on its demographic dividend, women must be given the same opportunities that are afforded to men. Organisations such as Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) and Pearls Africa based in Nigeria are aiming to boost representation through mentoring and training to girls and young women, in preparation for roles in the technology sector. Here at WorldRemit, we are proud to highlight the notable contributions made to fintech by our colleagues, Sharon Kinyanjui and Cynthia Ponera.
Sharon is the Head of East & Central Africa, responsible for development and expansion across over 10 markets in these regions. Sharon is a team leader, with extensive technical expertise gained through over 15 years of international business development. Sharon has extensive knowledge and experience of remittances previously holding management roles in EMEA for Western Union. She said, “Inclusion of women in the tech space needs to become standard practice. We need to build an environment which allows girls to flourish in the fintech space. Women are frequent consumers of tech and therefore need to be included in the conversation. Qualified women should continue to take more leadership positions within organisations in the tech ecosystem.”
Cynthia is country manager for Tanzania where she is responsible for generating new business by building relationships with partners and identifying key areas for growth. Cynthia has extensive experience in the banking industry, specialising in digital and alternative channels. It is here that she became chairperson of the Women Network Forum, which was created to empower women to take leadership roles. She championed the #SheforShe and #HeforShe campaigns, where she challenged men and women in leadership positions to provide mentoring to upcoming female talent. In keeping with her passion for technology and how it can be used to empower women, Cynthia’s master’s thesis was on the effect of mobile money on female financial inclusion in Tanzania.
In keeping with their passions for women in technology, they also recognise the ability of digital financial services such as mobile money to drive greater financial inclusion, gender parity. With over 122 million users of mobile money services in Africa, and smartphone connections forecast to grow to 636 million in 2022, hitting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which call for equality and lower remittance costs are likely to depend on building the right infrastructure to support consumers.
Digital approaches to financial services such as mobile money are having a transformative impact on low-income households, as they provide a path to greater financial security and prosperity. Research by MIT revealed that access to mobile money lifted 2% of the Kenyan population out of poverty. Mobile money was also found to have enabled Kenyans to set up their own businesses. The impact was even more pronounced for female-led households, where mobile money was thought to have given women the freedom to move from agricultural jobs to entrepreneurial and formal employment. While Nigeria has not yet achieved the same level of success recorded in Kenya, according to the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, “Nigeria had the second-highest proportion of women in professional/technician roles among the 58 markets surveyed and an exceptionally high percentage of females as entrepreneurs.”
In the diaspora community, women have oftentimes been identified to be making significant contributions to their families and communities back home. Remittances sent and received by women are usually spent on household provisions and healthcare, which have indirect societal benefits. However, as women tend to remit smaller amounts more often as compared to men, they are subject to higher transaction costs. Research by the UN & EU Women Migrant Project, suggests that female remittance senders could be susceptible to paying more than male counterparts to transfer the same amount of money. According to the Global Migration Group, women have paid remittance fees of up to 20% more than men. Women are overrepresented among the over one billion people across the world who do not have proof of identity documents and are therefore excluded from access to financial services. Our vision at WorldRemit is to accelerate financial inclusion, in line with the objectives of the African Development Bank’s Digital Financial Inclusion Facility. We are driving this through our mobile-first approach and are now the leading provider of remittances to mobile money wallets across the world.
WorldRemit values the immeasurable contributions made by women to society. International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to highlight the many achievements of women, whilst paying tribute to the important roles they play in our communities. Not only are they often primary caregivers, they are increasingly entrepreneurs and the breadwinners in many households.
•Gbenga Okejimi, Country Manager, Nigeria & Ghana, WorldRemit