Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Oct 28, 2013


Cherie Blair on New Mobile Financial Services Initiative for Women in Nigeria


This week I’m speaking at the Financial Inclusion 2020 Summit, an event that is promoting a global campaign to bring ordinary financial services – banking, credit cards, pensions, etc – to more than 2 billion people around the world who are currently excluded from these everyday services.

It’s an issue that is particularly important to me and my Foundation for Women, which promotes women entrepreneurs in the less developed parts of the world, and through which I’ve learned how hard it is for women to run a business without banking facilities. More than that, everyone needs financial services to manage their day-to-day lives and prepare for a better future. But very few in middle-income and especially low-income countries enjoy the access to quality services from formal financial service providers that many of us take for granted.

In wealthier countries, nearly 90% of the population have basic bank accounts. Most middle-class people are supported at every turn by financial services – such as credit cards for everyday purchases, mortgages to buy a home, quick and easy payment services, insurance or pensions. But in low and middle-income countries, the story is different.

More than 2.5 billion people lack access to quality financial services and at least half of that number will include women. If we want to make an impact on financial inclusion, that effort has to include women. Recent research findings from my own foundation, Visa, BFA and GSMA show that not only are women missing out on access to mobile financial services, they are also missing out on the retail opportunities related to these services.

In partnership with Visa, my foundation aims to address this gap, with a focus on Nigeria. Our project will result in 2,500 women becoming agents in the retail network of a leading financial services provider. As retail agents, they will bring branchless banking and mobile financial services to tens of thousands more women in Nigeria. Alongside the retail agent opportunities, the women involved will also benefit from training and capacity building support.

Our primary aim is to enable a greater number of women entrepreneurs to enter the electronic payment value chain in Nigeria – a sector that is set to grow tremendously in the coming months and years.

Why start in Nigeria? Women in Nigeria experience cultural, social and systemic barriers to entrepreneurship including poor infrastructure, lack of connectivity and other barriers. Three times as many men as women have the benefits of being registered as self-employed in the country, and while there are women entrepreneurs in Nigeria, the majority of them are forced to operate in the informal sector. This collaboration would offer opportunities for women to set up registered businesses in a growing sector.

There is a commercial opportunity as well. With only 30% of Nigeria’s population (84.7 million) using banking services and with more than 159 million mobile phone subscriptions, there is great potential for agent banking and other models which enable remote access to financial services in the country. This is as yet an untapped market representing a multi-million dollar industry.

This partnership is a significant step forward towards financial inclusion for women in Nigeria. Economically empowering women by giving them access to the same financial services as men,  is not only a smart way to raise the status of women and their quality of life but also brings benefits to the families and communities of the women who succeed. My foundation is looking forward to developing this project further and driving financial inclusion for women in Nigeria.


Posted by: Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on October 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Feb 25, 2013

Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets

Visa, in conjunction with the GSMA mWomen Programme and Bankable Frontier Associates, is pleased to announce the release of Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets. This new report identifies the financial needs of women living at the bottom of the pyramid; key findings include:

  • Women actively contribute to household income. Seventy-five percent of women surveyed contribute some amount of income, most often from irregular sources like small businesses or agricultural sales.
  • Women use a variety of tools to manage household finances. Nearly 60 percent of women surveyed are saving money for daily expenses and long-term needs, and a full one-third pay the family’s utility bills or make other types of remittances.
  • Women recognize the security and privacy of mobile money. In Kenya, for example, 95 percent of women using mobile remittances rated them as secure and private. In comparison, only half of those using personal delivery of cash as their primary method consider it secure and private.

Additionally, the study identifies actionable next steps for mobile financial service providers that want to expand their business to reach this untapped market, including: increasing mobile access for women; providing better financial literacy services to encourage awareness and understanding; delivering high-quality customer service; and developing targeted solutions to existing barriers faced by women in these markets.

This effort is part of Visa’s ongoing efforts to advance financial inclusion in the developing world. Given that women make up a majority of the 2.5 billion adults who lack access to formal financial products, this report has particular significance for these efforts. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to bring more underserved women into the financial mainstream, thereby reducing the cycle of poverty throughout the world.

For more information on the report, please click here. To read the full report, please visit the GSMA website.



Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on February 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Dec 11, 2012

Empowering Women through Mobile Financial Services: Stories from the Field

Today, half the world’s adult population (2.5 billion) lacks access to basic financial services – the majority of which are women.[1] With the rapid spread of cell phones, mobile financial services offer a unique opportunity to help close this gender gap.

At Visa we’re working with banks, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide the financially underserved with secure, reliable and affordable financial services at scale. To that end, Visa has partnered with GSMA’s mWomen Programme (GSMA) and Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) to understand the wants and needs of women for mobile financial services in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania.

Mobile technology in the hands of women can provide access to life-enhancing services, but studies have shown that there is a demonstrated gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage. In Pakistan, for example, only 12 percent of the total population has a bank account, and those who do are primarily men. In contrast, mobile phone usage hovers around 70 percent. This research will identify how to bridge that gap – connecting women to the mobile financial services they desperately need to enter the financial mainstream.

To learn more about women’s banking experiences in Pakistan, watch this video from the field and visit Mobile Payments Today for a guest contribution from Fundamo’s Aletha Ling and GSMA’s Chris Locke.

To read more about Visa’s commitment to financial inclusion and its mission to be the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere click here.

[1] Half the World is Unbanked, Financial Access Initiative


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on December 11, 2012 at 8:52 am

Nov 5, 2012

Making Smart Choices for Women & Mobile

The GSMA mWomen Programme, a partnership between USAID, AusAID the GSMA and Visa, has recently launched the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge, sponsored by Qtel Group. This is a competition seeking creative solutions for making the smartphone user experience more intuitive for technically illiterate users, particularly women, in developing countries. Julia Burchell, GSMA mWomen Knowledge Manager, discusses the context for the challenge and the impacts it could have for the mobile industry and for resource poor women around the world.

Mobile as a testament to human ingenuity

Mobile phone use in the developing world is exploding, yet women risk being left behind. 21% fewer women than men own a mobile phone in low- to middle-income countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap is estimated to be 23%; in the Middle East, 24% and in South Asia it rises to 37%.

The result is a mobile phone gender gap estimated to be 300 million women in the developing world without access to this potentially life-enhancing tool. And this tool is a powerful one. GSMA research, conducted in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, has shown there is a range of benefits associated with women’s mobile ownership: 93% of women surveyed felt more connected to family and friends, 85% felt more independent and 41% said owning a phone had improved their ability to make money. Mobile phones also can be used to help manage money, and for many unbanked people in emerging markets, mobile money services offer the first step to financial inclusion.

However, a range of barriers stand in women’s way of realising these benefits, including cultural barriers, a high total cost of mobile ownership (which includes device cost, airtime top-up and charging)  and a lack of basic and technical literacy.

These barriers are not insurmountable. For example, it is possible to use a mobile phone, despite the inability to read or write; millions across the world do every day, including some resource-poor women. As our recent study, “Striving & Surviving” demonstrated, women take advantage of the “proximate literacy” of their family and friends, and many teach themselves through trial and error.  The ability of people under such constraints to use a tool designed for users with greater resources at their disposal is testimony to both human ingenuity and the great value the tool adds to their daily lives.

The GSMA mWomen Programme aims to promote improved mobile ownership and usage by resource-poor women in emerging markets by 2014. We aim to help bring precisely those kinds of life-enhancing mobile services that many women currently lack, such as health information, mobile money and better connection to family and friends, into the hands of women across the developing world.

Phones getting smarter

The phones discussed in our study were feature phones, the most common in developing markets, with basic voice and SMS capabilities. These feature phones were originally designed to meet the needs of those that could afford them: urban, literate males with incomes that could support the costs of the device and its continued use, including airtime top-up and battery charging.

Over time, however, the standard feature phone will face competition from the richer experience available on smartphones.  The price of smartphone devices is dropping, and usage of smartphones is increasing across the world. Smartphones are now available for as little as US$80 in Kenya and other countries, and these prices continue to drop. Strategy Analytics projects that smartphones will gain in share at a rapid pace in emerging markets.  In India, the organization projects that the pace will increase by 856% between 2011 and 2016, and by 239% in Indonesia over the same period.

People across the developing world will find ways to use smartphones to meet their needs, whatever their resource and skill levels. Given that women make up the majority of the world’s poor, illiterate and unempowered population, they are unlikely to be the first adopters of these technologies. While the devices eventually will become the standard, particularly given the upswell of second-hand mobile devices entering these markets, the women currently underserved by mobile risk falling further behind.

Here at the GSMA mWomen Programme we’re asking, what if smartphones were designed to meet the needs of low-literacy women? What if the tools were geared towards serving the needs of those with limited disposable incomes and access to power? What if we could improve the smartphone user experience now to prevent resource-poor women from continuing to miss out in the future?

Women & mobile: the smart choice

To help answer these questions, we were very excited to launch the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge at the recent Social Good Summit in New York. The competition seeks to engage the global digital design community to create solutions to make the smartphone user experience more intuitive, particularly for women in developing countries who struggle with technical literacy. Entries can be submitted until 14 December, 2012, and the winners, who will be announced in February in Barcelona at GSMA’s Mobile World Congress, will receive prizes up to US$20,000. The winners also will have the opportunity to speak with potential investors interested in commercializing strong innovations.

So, we are calling on you and your networks, be they programmers and product designers or entrepreneurs and innovators, to help redefine the smartphone user experience for resource poor women. Check out the challenge at today!


Posted by: Julia Burchell, GSMA mWomen Knowledge Manager on November 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

Oct 11, 2012

Better Than Cash Perspectives: Mobile and Women

Continuing the series of perspectives from the recent Better Than Cash launch event in New York City, the next interviews highlight two organizations that clearly understand the value of moving towards electronic payments: the GSMA and Women’s World Banking.

GSMA Mobile for Development brings together their mobile operator members, the wider mobile industry and the development community to drive commercial mobile services for underserved people in emerging markets.

Women’s World Banking is the only microfinance network with an explicit focus on women. Their  network of 39 financial organizations from 27 countries—also known as microfinance institutions—located around the world provide small loans, sometimes as modest as $100, to people to start their businesses.

Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Mobile for Development


Mary Ellen Iskenderian, Women’s World Banking


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on October 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Jun 21, 2012

Visa at Mobile Asia Expo

All eyes are on Shanghai this week as they host the Mobile Asia Expo, where Visa is showcasing the latest in mobile payments technology. The conference marks a milestone for the GSMA in hosting a tradeshow of this scale in China, where more than 200 mobile technology companies are participating alongside Visa and the organizers expect more than 20,000 attendees by the end of the three day event.

Visa understands consumers everywhere have a distinctive relationship with their mobile device where it has become an extension of themselves whether they’re at work or at play – and they’re looking for a more interactive relationship with that device. It’s not difficult to envision a future where payments can be made with a wave or tap of the mobile phone; one where shoppers would be able to purchase items at their favorite store on-the-go with their mobile phones.

On day one of the conference, I spoke alongside senior executives from mobile technology firms about the current state of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. NFC is increasingly being adopted by payment networks, banks, merchants, mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators as the global standard for mobile payments, and has enormous potential for both consumers and businesses.

Visa is commercially ready to support mobile operators and financial institutions with the roll-out of NFC-based payment systems. We have moved the technology from pilot to commercial readiness and are optimistic that consumers will embrace NFC-enabled mobile payments this year.  A complex ecosystem is required to enable contactless payments, and Visa is working closely with merchants, acquirers, issuers and mass transit operators to increase acceptance of NFC payments at the point-of-sale.

At our booth in the Shanghai New International Expo Centre Hall N2, H10, Visa is showcasing the latest mobile payments technology, including demonstrations of Visa Mobile Contactless, Visa Mobile Prepaid, as well as Visa Person-to-Person Transfers.

Follow our live updates (in Mandarin) on Sina Weibo at


Posted by: Niki Manby, Head of Emerging Products, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa, Visa on June 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

Nov 30, 2011

Visa Joins Public-Private partnership to Help Close the Mobile Phone Gender Gap

Visa is proud to join a new partnership to improve the lives of women in developing countries. Announced today, the GSMA mWomen Global Development Alliance brings Visa together with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and GSMA Foundation in a partnership to close the gender gap in access to mobile phones and the life-enhancing services they can provide. The partnership’s goals include reducing the mobile phone gender gap by 50% and enabling an additional 150 million underserved women in developing countries to own and effectively use mobile phones and their services, including mobile financial services.

Today, half the world’s adult population—2.5 billion people—lacks access to basic financial services. An estimated 70% of the financially underserved are women. Being financially excluded means relying on cash, where a simple task like paying a bill or receiving money from a family member can be risky, costly and time consuming. Financial exclusion also reinforces the cycle of poverty and slows economic growth. And women in developing economies often bear the greater burden of these impacts.

Mobile technology already is demonstrating the potential to change that. By 2012, 1.7 billion people are expected to own a mobile phone but will not have a bank account. Around the world, we already have begun to see the power that mobile technology can have in extending the reach of digital currency, providing the unbanked with tools for payments and other life-enhancing financial services and bringing new participants into the global financial system. This is, in part, why Visa has been investing in mobile, including our recent acquisition of Fundamo and the launch a new product tailored to the needs of consumers in developing countries— a prepaid account that can be accessed through a simple menu on a mobile phone.

Yet, while mobile financial services offer an unparalleled opportunity to advance financial inclusion, there is a global gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage, with women 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. The only way mobile will help improve the lives of women at the base of the pyramid is if we work to close the mobile phone gender gap.

The partnership announced today further strengthens our commitment to advancing financial inclusion not only through product innovation, but also by partnering with some of the world’s leading organizations to better understand the challenges of the financially underserved, share our payments expertise and support programs that deliver basic financial services. We look forward to sharing developments from this partnership as it progresses.

For more information and the official press release, click here.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on November 30, 2011 at 6:34 am