Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and network operator Millicom International Cellular S.A., have launched an innovative project to bring mobile financial services to women entrepreneurs throughout Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana.
Over a period of 18 months, this Global Development Alliance will provide more than 4,000 women with business skills training and opportunities to increase their income through mobile retail channels, USAID said in a December 18 press release.
According to recent reports from the World Bank, an estimated 2.5 billion working-age adults globally have no access to formalized financial services. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has the largest unbanked population, with only 12 percent of the region's population having access to any form of formalized banking.
In launching the alliance, USAID Chief Innovation Officer Maura O'Neill said: "Our opportunity to economically empower women through powerful, wide-reaching mobile technologies is more realizable now than ever before. But our ability to succeed requires coordinated and collective action. As such, we value our partnership with the private sector and influential foundations, such as Millicom and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The components of this partnership are groundbreaking, and we are excited to watch them unfold for the benefit of women and their families in Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana."
Cherie Blair said, "Women entrepreneurs stand to gain a great deal from selling mobile money products. With the right business training and working capital available, women entrepreneurs can benefit from being part of a mobile operator's value chain. Setting up mobile sales provides additional household income and the opportunity for these women to be financially independent."
The women involved will have access to 12-month working capital loans for their mobile money businesses, distributed to the women entrepreneurs through Millicom's mobile financial services platform. The initiative will deliver financial literacy and business development training for the women entrepreneurs, to support them in managing their loan repayments and their mobile money agent business.
Hans-Holger Albrecht, president and chief executive of Millicom, said: "I am proud that we at Millicom can be part of financial inclusion in Africa. This public-private initiative with renowned partners such as the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and USAID will foster women's entrepreneurship to the benefit of all in the local communities."
This partnership will present opportunities for women mobile money agents to become profitable while at the same time attracting and retaining new customers. By increasing the number of female agents, the project aims to lower the barriers that women face in accessing financial services and to promote the innovative adoption of mobile technology among women. It also aims to design a successful model for mobile operators around the world to replicate, in order to expand mobile money operations and financial inclusion for the unbanked.