Kenya: Women Pay More to Access Mobile Money Services

7 February 2021

Kenyan women are paying almost twice as much as their male counterparts to access mobile money services, according to a new report.

Data released by British digital payments research firm Caribou Data shows the multiple ways in which women play second fiddle in the utility of Safaricom's fintech products, M-Pesa, M-Shwari and Fuliza.

According to the report, Payments System Design and the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap, the study conducted in major towns across the country shows a strong gender bias in transaction fees, with women paying about Sh11 per peer-to-peer transaction, compared with Sh7 for men, on average.

"It leads to a higher average of total fees paid per month, about Sh30 for women and Sh16 for men," states the study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This, the survey explains, is due to the fact that women are less financially empowered, making them transact smaller amounts - usually less than Sh800 per transaction on average - which attracts higher transaction fees compared with men, who send bigger amounts on Safaricom's mobile money platform M-Pesa.

Currently, to send Sh800 you are required to pay a transaction fee of Sh12, which is 1.5 per cent of the transaction value, compared with sending Sh15,000 at a fee of Sh97, which translates to 0.64 per cent of the amount sent.

Safaricom's dominance

Safaricom's dominant market position has allowed it to maintain relatively high fees, starting at Sh10 (before the Covid-19 pandemic) for transactions between Sh101 to Sh500. Consequently, users pay an average fee of about 1.5 per cent of the transaction value in fees, with women averaging a significantly higher fee burden over men.

This changed when Safaricom raised the fee threshold from Sh100 to Sh1,000 in response to Covid-19 economic hardships, where higher values were transacted. The survey also discloses that despite the telco's overdraft facility Fuliza witnessing a stronger demand from men than women, it is the latter who are more active.

Launched in November 2018, with a daily borrowing of Sh830 million according to data released by Safaricom last November, Fuliza has become common, with 21 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men using it, according to the research.

"While fewer women used the service, those who did were more active than their male counterparts. Women averaged four transactions at an average value of Sh140 each, compared to men averaging 1.6 transactions for Sh80 each," states the research that surveyed over 1000 men and women.

Women's high utilisation of Fuliza suggests that innovative new mobile money products -- in this case a wallet-integrated credit facility -- may be valuable in serving their unmet financial needs.

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