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women's digital financial inclusionAcross the globe, digital finance services are empowering vulnerable communities to make responsible investments, save for the future and gain access to credit. Between 2011 and 2014, seven hundred million people in the developing world gained access to these services, allowing them to participate in formal economic decisions for the first time. Although there is a long journey ahead for women’s digital financial inclusion in the developing world, much is being done to help close the gap.

Barriers and Challenges

Despite rapid growth, there is still a significant deficit in women’s digital financial inclusion. According to the World Bank, there is a 9 percent disparity in financial inclusion between men and women in the developing world. This number has remained the same since 2011. The disparity is in large part born out of several social, economic and cultural barriers that hinder women in the developing world from gaining access to these kinds of services. Lower rates of mobile phone ownership and low rates of digital literacy among women are arguably the two most prominent barriers for women in the developing world.

A 2018 report recorded that women in low to middle-income countries are 10 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than their male counterparts. That 10 percent translates to around 184 million women without access to a mobile device and, therefore, digital financing services. Without this crucial link to a formal economy, women are excluded from credit approval and economic and political decision-making. They have little to no control over how their personal funds are spent.

In addition, an overall lack of digital literacy causes an assortment of issues for women’s inclusion in financial matters. According to the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), 75 percent of survey respondents classified a lack of digital literacy as a major barrier in women’s digital financial inclusion. Without knowledge of these innovative services, women in rural and impoverished regions are forced to resort to less trustworthy forms of investment and informal savings. These often yield large negative returns for participants. This method of financing makes the identification of these women extremely difficult. This leads to low loan approval and higher interest rates for those women who are lucky enough to get approved.

Nonprofits Commit to Closing the Gender Gap

Despite various challenges, much is being done to assist women in developing countries on their path to financial stability and independence. In 2014, AFI signed the Denarau Action Plan, which lays out a commitment to halve the financial gender gap by 2021. AFI isn’t alone in their pursuits either. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently launched an institutional gender strategy that will commit $170 million to the economic empowerment of women. Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) also recently joined forces with 200 different organizations in similar pursuits.

The issue of women’s digital financial inclusion is gaining momentum globally. The world is starting to recognize just how much of a positive impact financial gender-equality will have on the global economy. AFI found that global gender-equality could unlock $12 trillion in incremental GDP by 2025 with a specific focus on digital finance services. Although progress is slow, women in developing nations are beginning to reap the benefits of financial inclusion on a more personal scale.

Digital financial services give these women the opportunity to gain financial independence, create and expand their businesses, plan for their families’ futures and make empowered decisions about how their funds will be spent. The world is recognizing women’s digital financial inclusion as a top priority and it is bursting into action to provide these women with financial independence, stability and empowerment.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Pixabay

Africa_computer Africa Code WeekIn October 2015 nearly 89,000 African youth in 17 countries took part in “Africa Code Week” where they had the opportunity to attend free online sessions and coding workshops. The event was created to empower African youth to become fluent in the language of the digital age and stimulate the continent’s economic development.

For some of the youth who took part in the week-long celebration of digital literacy, Africa Code Week marked the first time they had ever written a single line of code. For others, it was their first time using a computer.

“Africa Code Week gives us an opportunity to marvel at what the future holds,” said Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, in an article for Forbes. “It’s true that today less than one percent of African children leave school with basic coding skills. I’m confident that figure is about to rise dramatically, just as Africa prepares to claim its rightful place as a soaring economic power in this new digital economy.”

Throughout the world, coding is becoming an increasingly critical skill for those entering the workforce. Over the next 10 years, it is estimated that there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer sciences but only around 400,000 graduates qualified to do them, according to International Business Times.

As we wind our way deeper into the 21st century, individuals with coding skills will become more and more valuable in the workplace. Digital literacy could become a key strategy for strengthening economic infrastructure in developing countries.

“Digital literacy has the power to put millions of young Africans on the path to successful careers,” Moroccan Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Rachid Belmokhtar, said to IT News Africa. “Trained, tech savvy graduates are needed to improve Africa’s position in the globally competitive knowledge economy. Everyone from governments and educational institutions all the way to NGOs and corporations has a role to play to spread digital literacy across Africa.”

It was foundations like Ampion, SAP, Simplon.co and more that saw the need and came to help. They founded Africa Code Week to bestow young Africans with a set of useful skills through hands-on teaching.

Despite the fact that the event is the largest digital literacy initiative ever held on the African continent, SAP and its partners are not satisfied. Next year, the Africa Code Week team hopes to reach 150,000 youth in at least 30 countries.

“The digital economy is here and the opportunities it presents are manifold,” said Pfungwa Serima, Executive Chairman, SAP Africa. “If we equip young Africans with the best technology, give them skills that make them relevant to the job market and empower them to be bold and innovative, we’ll see them do amazing things.”

Jen Diamond

Photo: Flickr