Expert Harps on Digital Entrepreneurship, Financial Inclusion for African Women

Emma Okonji

Given the increased access to digital technology and financial services across globe, the Chief Customer Officer for Unlimint, Irene Skrynova, has said African women are beginning to use technology in overcoming barriers and developing innovative solutions to tackle societal challenges.

Skrynova, in a statement, said the more access women have to digital technology and financial services, the more barriers are being broken down. She listed the digital financial services to include mobile banking, online lending, and crowdfunding platforms, while insisting that the platforms have allowed women to access financing and expand their businesses without facing the conventional obstacles of gender bias and limited networks.

She however said despite the significant progress made in recent years, women continue to face significant barriers to accessing digital entrepreneurship opportunities and financial services.

“These issues are often multifaceted, cutting across several challenges including under-representation, limited access to finance, lack of digital skills, and discriminatory legal and cultural norms. A study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) found that women entrepreneurs face a $1.5 trillion credit gap globally, with only 16 per cent of women entrepreneurs in developing countries, able to access the credit they need to grow their businesses,” Skrynova said.

Advancing some strategies that would address the challenges faced by women in accessing digital entrepreneurship opportunities and financial services, Skrynova stressed the need to: Close the gender divide in digital entrepreneurship and financial inclusion; Address cultural barriers that limit women’s access to digital entrepreneurship and financial services; Facilitate purposeful and results-driven partnerships and Collaborations among various stakeholders.

Addressing the issue of gender divide, Skrynova said the gender divide in digital entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, remained a complex issue that would require a multifaceted approach. “The focus needs to evolve from finding generic solutions to addressing the unique requirements of specific communities. One such approach is through education. Women face greater obstacles as they progress to higher levels of education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, leading many to pursue informal ambitions. As a result, women are disadvantaged in income-earning opportunities and are more likely to experience unemployment, informal employment, or lower-paying jobs than men,” she said.

In the area of cultural barriers that limit women’s access to digital entrepreneurship and financial services, Skrynova said: “This ranges from challenging gender stereotypes, increasing women’s representation in leadership positions, and promoting women’s economic empowerment at the policy level. Additionally, encouraging gender-disaggregated data collection is essential for understanding the needs and experiences of women in digital entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. This can help identify gaps and barriers and inform the design and implementation of policies and programs to foster the development of digital entrepreneurship and financial inclusion for women.”

According to her, the African Gender Data Book, published by the African Development Bank Group (AFDB) in 2019 is a great example since it will provide the AFDB regional member-states with gender-specific data collection tools that can ultimately aid the development of government policies that foster women’s empowerment and financial inclusion.

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