MICROFINANCE PUBLICATION ROUND-UP: Digital Wallets for Illiterate Customers in India, Agency Banking in Africa, Gender Equality in Financial Services

“Digital Wallet Adoption for the Oral Segment in India: Concept Development for MoWo (Mobile Wallet for Oral);” by Brett Hudson Matthews, Richa Valechha, Vivek Anand, Avantika Kushwaha, Saborni Poddar and Rachit Ohri; published by MicroSave; May 2017; 50 pages, available at:


The authors describe a project conducted during 2016 in India on the Mobile Wallet for Oral (MoWo), a mobile-money service designed for the “oral” market segment, which includes 264 million people in the country who have low reading-skill levels. A group of 310 participants from various communities were subjected to “signing, reading and numeracy” tests. Thereafter, 138 people of varying literacy levels participated in focus groups on the user interface of the mobile wallet. Finally, 29 participants performed usability testing.

The study indicates that: (1) the majority of oral adults cannot comprehend large numbers, experiencing severe trouble with figures of four or more digits; (2) most oral Indians cannot identify the symbol for rupees; and (3) participating women had weaker “mental calculation skills” than men. The strengths of the lower-level oral segment include the ability to: (1) read numbers with one or two digits; (2) manipulate 4-digit sums (with the aid of colors, shapes and images); and (3) perform rudimentary mental calculations. In contrast, the higher-level “neo-numerate” population was able to decode three-digit numbers and exhibit “reasonable fluency” in reading. As a result of these findings, the following features have been added to MoWo: (1) new icons that are more easily recognized; (2) a limit of five elements per screen for visual simplicity; and (3) images of cash equivalents next to account balances.

“The Long Road to Branchless Banking,” by Nathan Were and Helen Lin, published by FINCA International, September 2017, 21 pages, available at:


Mr Were and Ms Lin detail the rollout by the Foundation for International Cooperation (FINCA International) of agency banking in Africa, beginning with a pilot in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and then expanding into Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. The FINCA affiliates in each country contracted with banking agents to process transactions using “point-of-sale (POS) terminals, mobile phones, barcode scanners, or computers” outside of FINCA branches. The agents perform deposits; withdrawals; loan disbursals; account transfers; available-balance checks; and payment deliveries for services such as electricity, television and mobile phones.

FINCA found that some of its staff members were hesitant to support the use of agents for fear of losing their own jobs. The authors argue that careful monitoring of performance indicators can help develop robust “incentive structures” to retain both agents and FINCA staff. The authors also stress the importance of evaluating the technology to be deployed in terms of scalability, ease of user training and the proximity of the vendor to the service locations.

The authors also caution that reductions in transaction costs do not surface until the agency channel attains significant scale. However, they argue that a long-term investment in agency banking networks can reduce risks, reduce transaction costs, increase the accessibility of financial services and improve the customer experience.

“Reference Framework: Gender Equality,” published by Développement international Desjardins, August 2016, 16 pages, available at:


Based on the idea that equality between men and women is pivotal for creating sustainable economic growth in developing markets, the authors of this paper describe measures that can reduce barriers for women in accessing financial services. From 2011 to 2014, the percentage of women with a bank account grew from 47 percent to 58 percent. However, this leaves a gap of 9 percentage points between men and women. Moreover, 70 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) owned by women in developing economies report being “served poorly or not at all by financial institutions.”

Simply giving men and women the same opportunities can be insufficient. The authors suggest implementing gender-specific policies that account for past discrimination and are tailored to the gender norms of the society in question. Creating such policies requires an understanding of the local “social, cultural and economic context” and the collection of “gender-sensitive” data. Implementation must include ensuring women have access to financial education and entrepreneurial as well as services from a diverse array of financial institutions. Financial institutions must also hire more women as loan officers. Lastly, the authors advise creating “specific financial products” targeting parts of value chains historically dominated by women.

In closing, the authors cite a 2015 study by McKinsey & Company that estimates closing the gap between men and women would add USD 28 billion to global GDP in 2025.

By Aleks Marceau, Research Associate

Sources and additional resources:

Mobile Wallet for Oral Market:

About MicroSave:

Agency Banking in Africa:

FINCA International:

DiD’s gender equity framework:

About DiD:

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