M-Pesa Savings Initiatives Have More Female Users Than Male

M-Pesa savings products in Lesotho and mozambique
Image Credit: Safaricom

In an increasingly digital world, women are still less likely than men to own a mobile phone and use key services, such as mobile money. However, M-Pesa, a mobile money platform serving more than 59 million customers across Africa has identified savings as a game changer.

M-Pesa was launched in Mozambique 10 years ago. Currently, it has 5.8 million customers in the country.

According to Reenu Verma, the Executive Head of the M-Pesa mobile money service at Vodacom Group, more women than men in Mozambique are using Xitique M-Pesa. This is a savings product available to Vodacom Mozambique clients.

The savings product allows customers to save money on a daily or weekly basis. Xitique Diary options allow users to access their daily contributions after one month. Xitique Weekly allows users to contribute to the savings wallet every 7 days. Similar to M-Shwari locked savings, clients choose how many weeks they would like to contribute before accessing funds.

Having learnt that women were using Xitique M-Pesa to save, the Vodacom team ramped up training and financial upskilling programs. The engagement boosted product knowledge among Maputo women. This led to even further growth in the number of female users.

M-Pesa Saving Product in Lesotho

In Africa, women groups have long acted as savings and credit unions. Women usually put money in a kitty that group members contribute to. The kitty serves them all giving the women access to loans. Vodacom took advantage of this culture and decided to digitize the process.

Digitization led to the birth of the Mokhatlo Savings Account. This is a group savings product for M-Pesa customers in Lesotho. Each Mokhatlo Savings Account has its unique code. The group savings account has at least 1 group leader, 1 approver and regular members.

Now group members can save into a kitty in a digitized and more transparent manner. This is because the M-Pesa saving product provides a transaction trail and requires group approval before withdrawals. In addition, all members receive a notification when any transaction takes place. This digital savings product has encouraged female entrepreneurs to shift from cash and have adopted mobile money in the process.

In general, the World Bank Global Findex 2021 found that 39% of all mobile money account owners in the Africa, saved using a mobile money account. This is equal to the share of adults who saved via a formal financial institution, such as a bank.

In Kenya, more female business owners adopt digital payment channels (PayBill, Till Number etc.) than their male counterparts in Urban Areas.

This is more evidence that the digital gap in Africa can be closed if the right products are introduced. The shift by women is important as past research has shown that in households with access to mobile money, women were more likely to move out of agriculture into businesses. Furthermore, the researchers found M-PESA increased consumption levels over a six-year period, enabling about 2 percent of Kenyan households to move out of poverty.