Building Women’s Market Engagement in Banks Across Africa

Thursday 29th June 2017

All-Stars Africa group photo 2017The GBA All-Stars Academy’s first-ever class in Africa was met with overwhelming demand, with more than 100 applicants vying for 60 slots in the immersive peer learning experience.

Those seats went to 35 commercial banks, central banks and international finance institutions from 20 countries across Africa and the Middle East, who gathered in Livingstone, Zambia, from June 19-22 to learn what it takes to bank women well from experienced financial services practitioners hailing from Africa and international markets. Hosted by the Bank of Zambia as part of their efforts to accelerate women’s financial inclusion in the country, the All-Stars Academy Africa was the largest All-Stars event the GBA has held to date.

The Honourable Felix Mutati, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Zambia, delivered the keynote address at the All-Stars Academy’s kickoff event, the Women’s Market Master Class. He stressed the importance of providing women entrepreneurs with access to finance and networks that enable them to grow their businesses.

“Women are not looking for sympathy; they are looking for opportunity,” he noted.

Mr. Mutati added that it is the responsibility of government to create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs, but financial institutions should not wait for regulations to take action.

“Women are great borrowers, and they have lower NPLs than men,” he said. “Banks need to better understand and connect with women, both as clients and as potential clients.”

Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, Deputy Governor of All-Stars Africa host Bank of Zambia, has championed financial inclusion for women both in Zambia and as Chair of the Alliance For Financial Inclusion’s (AFI) Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion Committee. Her leadership was evident throughout the workshop, and GBA is delighted to continue partnering with her and her organization.

Over the course of the next three days, students learned best practice strategies from experts with deep background in the Women’s Market, who shared GBA research and examples from their own experiences serving women customers with a holistic value proposition comprising access to finance, information, education, networks and recognition. Some key takeaways:

  • Offering a look at a long-term Women’s Market strategy, Rachael McKenzie, National Manager Business Initiatives, SME Banking & Connect Now at GBA founding member Westpac, discussed the bank’s approach to its Women’s Markets program, which has been a strategic differentiator for Westpac for nearly 20 years. Having honed its position as the premier bank for women in Australia, Westpac is currently emphasizing its robust internal Inclusion and Diversity strategy, which has benefited both women and men – 74 percent of staff now use some form of flexible work arrangement.
  • Senior Brand Manager of We Initiative and Enterprise Banking Carine Fersan Choueiry shared key pieces of BLC Bank’s journey to become the first bank in the MENA region with a dedicated holistic Women’s Market program and how they have developed a strong business case by focusing on becoming the Bank of Reference for women in their home base of Lebanon. Loans to women in the country have risen from 3 percent to 26 percent since We Initiative’s launch in 2012, while BLC’s loan portfolio to women-owned SMEs has increased by 121 percent on a cumulative basis.
  • Marianne Nyangi, Business Development and Transformation Lead at Victoria Commercial Bank in Kenya, shared insights from her deep experience with the Women’s Market in Kenya, where she was responsible for the team that led the design and implementation of one of the country’s first women’s strategies. Through their market research, they discovered a critical area women wanted support from banks on is protection, making it “absolutely necessary to work with insurance companies to develop women-centric products,” she noted.
  • Kaylene Alvarez, leader of IFC’s technical advisory for Banking on Women, shared her insights on how digital technologies are transforming the value proposition for women, while Andrew McCartney, IFC’s technical advisory lead for South Asia, walked participants through IFC’s workshop methodology for developing customer value propositions based on market research.

Much like the audience at the GBA’s first regional All-Stars Academy of the year in the Dominican Republic, the All-Stars Academy Africa participants were a highly engaged group, with lively discussions and Q&A sessions throughout the week and a formidable digital presence: #AllStarsAcademy was trending in Zambia during the entirety of the event.

Participants found the Academy highly practical and useful, with many stating it was relevant, insightful, engaging and inspiring, and several calling for the program to be expanded to other African nations.

“[The program was] extremely helpful to our women’s banking proposition,” one participant said. “I am extremely motivated, grateful and encouraged by what other markets have already done.”

“Very practical [teachings], which speak to our countries’ experiences. We also obtained essential strategies for implementing and coming up with a women’s strategy,” noted another.

Members can access the presentations from the GBA Women’s Market Master Class by searching in the Vault. A big thank-you to all our All-Stars experts, our hosts, Bank of Zambia, and our sponsors, FMO; UK Aid; the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; IFC, a member of the World Bank Group; FSD Africa; and FSD Zambia for making this one-of-a-kind, comprehensive learning event possible for the first time in Africa.