women in Sub-Saharan Africa

Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment Mapping Tool: Spotlighting Opportunities for Impact in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where women make up the majority of entrepreneurs. But, delve a little deeper and you will find that women face steep social and economic barriers to growing their businesses. While access to finance is the key constraint, they are also much more likely to be hindered due to household responsibilities and are less likely to have the market skills to advance their businesses. Removing these barriers could unleash a huge opportunity for women entrepreneurs and boost economic growth in the region.

The European Investment Bank (or EIB) launched the African Women Rising Initiative (AWRI) to support women’s economic empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa by identifying effective environments for growth, increasing access to finance, and supporting women entrepreneurs in selected countries. The AWRI aims to strengthen women-led or -owned businesses through designing holistic, market-oriented programs, bolstering business skills, and developing gender intelligent financial services.

As a first step for the AWRI, ConsumerCentriX (CCX), as part of the Consortium with German-based technical advisory group IPC and African Management Institute (AMI), set out to identify the strongest opportunities for impacting women entrepreneurs in Africa. CCX conducted a comprehensive mapping exercise that assessed the current state of financial inclusion for women, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment initiatives, as well as innovations in financial technology, and digital banking. Based on this exercise, the team identified countries in the region that have substantial gaps in gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, however, their macro and social environments could enable a financial sector intervention that fosters progress. 

Mapping Methodology

Women entrepreneurs are not evenly distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa. The region is made up of 48 countries at varying stages of development and some places offer a more conducive environment for women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses with the support of formal financial services. In order to better understand women’s financial and economic inclusion opportunities, we created a scoring system based on 65 publicly available indicators from sources such as the Global Findex[1]. Not all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were surveyed by the Findex which limited the comparable data, but in many cases, other indicators were able to be substituted from other sources like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Economist Intelligence Unit, as well as Citibank and Mastercard data that illustrate macroeconomic, demographic, political-regulatory, and socioeconomic dynamics within each country. Additional sector-specific datasets contributed a broader understanding of the stage of development and inclusiveness of the financial sector. We then ranked each country according to their stage of development as indicated by the gross national income (GNI) per capita and compared them based on the indicators.

The indicators were categorized into four overarching themes that tested each country’s receptivity to potential financial inclusion efforts based on their legal or socio-cultural constraints and women’s access to finance. The categories included:

  1. Enabling Environment: Provided a snapshot of each country’s development stage by assessing the general economic and demographic environment through indicators like conflict, debt, GNI per capita and GDP, and population characteristics;
  2. Women’s Inclusion and Human Capital: Assessed women’s socio-economic position including factors that influence their productivity and opportunity to build capital;
  3. Women’s Entrepreneurship: Analyzed the ease of doing business in each country and women’s typical role within the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector; and
  4. Financial Sector: Focused on the availability of financial services through different channels, the regulatory environment, and the sector’s inclusivity and capacity to serve entrepreneurs with financing.

Ultimately, the CCX team created an effective tool that swiftly facilitates benchmarking of countries in Africa (and beyond) for our work on impact consulting in women’s financial inclusion and entrepreneurship support. Additionally, the tool includes permanent links to the respective databases utilized for the mapping exercise.


During the mapping exercise, 19 countries were immediately omitted from the selection process based on insurmountable obstacles to a long-term technical assistance engagement like extensive violent conflict and significant debt distress. Countries with extremely small populations were also not carried onto the shortlist due to their lack of scalability and potential impact.










In order to narrow the playing field even further, we categorized countries in Sub-Saharan Africa into five groups based on their development stage. Each country was ranked according to threshold criteria against peer countries within each group. Countries were excluded from consideration if the socio-economic challenges or gender gaps they were facing could not be realistically addressed with financial inclusion or women’s economic empowerment initiatives. To advance to the next round, countries needed to score 60-70% on average across all indicators when compared to the top country within each group.

Countries that met the threshold had significant room for improvement in women’s entrepreneurship and inclusivity in the formal financial sector that could be addressed by the areas intended for the AWRI technical assistance, namely empowering women entrepreneurs and creating gender-intelligent and innovative SME financing solutions. In other words: these countries indicated a substantial potential for growth compared to their best-in-class African peers, while also presenting a sufficiently conducive environment for impact through the AWRI support.

Based on this scoring system, a shortlist of 16 countries qualified including Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda.

EIB selected Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda were selected as the four finalists. These countries have healthy percentages of  SMEs t

hat are women-led or -owned, have financial institutions with existing relationships with EIB that are interested in better serving women entrepreneurs, show strong potential for growth with existing conducive regulatory and social environments and/or the opportunity to leverage digital channels to deepen financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment.

Below is  brief overview of the four finalist countries:

  • Côte d’Ivoire is the business hub of French-speaking West Africa with strong prevalence of private business and self-employment with an established financial sector, fast-growing microfinance activity and strong digital uptake;
  • Rwanda has high women’s labor force participation (84%) and a supportive public sector, a national financial inclusion strategy and investment climate which offers strong opportunities for digitization;
  • Senegal is a majority Muslim country that has a relatively high degree of gender equality in early-stage entrepreneurship, with a high share of female entrepreneurship and strong remittances which could serve as a source of funding for women business owners; and
  • Uganda is an attractive market for business investment given its stable economy, large market, and the size of its labor force with a financial inclusion strategy that is generally supportive of women’s economic activities.

The mapping exercise was successful in identifying countries in the region that are more favorable to women’s economic inclusion and empowerment and serves as a useful tool for understanding country contexts in the financial sector in other regions throughout the world.

Women in Sub-Saharan Africa face universal constraints as entrepreneurs and EIB’s AWRI program will now support organizations that can increase women’s financial inclusion by developing quality programs involving access to finance, training and other non-financial services to support woman entrepreneurs’ growth.

[1] The Global Findex is a publicly available data set on how adults save, borrow, make payments and manage risk that is published every three years by the World Bank. Data is collected in partnership with over 140 economies through nationally representative surveys.

Why 2019 Mattered for Us, A monumental year for ConsumerCentriX

Why 2019 Mattered for Us


Why 2019 Mattered for Us

As a company committed to closing the gap in financial access, 2019 was a monumental year for us. We are proud to have embarked on several key initiatives that have laid the foundation for our work in the years to come.


In the summer of 2019, we convened key regulators from Nigeria, Egypt, and Indonesia to share lessons among peers and draw inspiration from digital and policy innovation in India, China and Estonia. The result? Roadmaps that gave new momentum to financial inclusion. We look forward to continuing our work with this dedicated group in 2020. Stay tuned for more details!

Click here to learn more about this important initiative.

Click here to learn more about this study. 

Insights into the business case for non-financial services to women-owned SMEs.

To help close the gap in financial access and knowledge, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) enlisted our support to provide insights in the business case for non-financial services to women-owned SMEs. 

To get a holistic view of the state of non-financial service (NFS) offerings in 2019, we surveyed over 30 banks from around the world.

Through an in-depth analysis of survey data and interviews with key stakeholders from financial service providers,  enterprise development organizations and other industry players, we gained actionable insights into new NFS delivery models and determined a tiered approach for financial service providers to improve their business outcomes by providing non-financial services to women-owned SMEs.

Keep an eye on our social channels and website. Because in 2020, we will publish our findings and insights through two case studies, blogs, and a podcast.

Working with East African Banks to address the complex needs of SMEs

Through the generous funding of the Argidius Foundation, we worked with two leading banks in East Africa, Stanbic Bank Uganda and KCB Rwanda to develop holistic SME Banking propositions with an emphasis on non-financial services. To determine the feasibility of the propositions, we assessed the financial, business skill, and networking needs of SME customers and non-customers and their attitudes towards financial institutions.

Convinced from the findings and business opportunities determined by the feasibility studies, the Argidius Foundation has extended its funding through a grant of 1.5 million euros.  As a result of this funding, we will continue working with both banks, to address the complex needs of SMEs through financial and non-financial services over the next three years. By providing SMEs in Uganda and Rwanda with the right finance and skills to expand their businesses, both countries stand to benefit from catalyzed economic growth.

P.S If you haven’t listened to our new podcast series Reaching the Underserved,” check out our first episode with Nicholas Colloff, Executive Director of the Argidius Foundation.

The Decisions Behind Aadhaar's Success Story


The Decisions Behind Aadhaar's Success Story with Tanuj Bhojwani

The decisions behind Aadhaar’s success story revolves around big and small strategies. According to Findex data from 2014, only 53 percent of adult Indians had bank accounts. By 2017, that number had jumped to 80 percent and traditionally excluded demographics shared in these gains. Women saw a 30 percent increase in account ownership, and the poorest households saw a 40 percent increase. The remarkable addition of 300 million accounts in just a few years can be largely contributed to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme which mandates that every household has at least one bank account and the biometric ID Aadhaar which grants residents a unique identification number that can be used to access financial services. First available in 2010, Aadhaar is now used by 1.2 billion Indians.

However, beyond increasing the number of bank accounts, Aadhaar has become an integral component of several flagship government programs including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the public distribution system (PDS), two of India’s largest welfare programs. The biometric authentication helps ensure that the gains are delivered to actual beneficiaries, instead of fake or duplicates, thereby cutting food shortages. Currently, around 90 percent of all welfare recipients receive their government benefits through Aadhaar.

In this video, Tanuj Bhojwani, a representative for the iSpirit Foundation, shares his thoughts on the big and small decisions that made Aadhaar a success and why the user-experience for welfare beneficiaries has improved through the adoption of the biometric ID. Bhojwani recently participated in the “Identifying Practical Solutions to Accelerating Digital Financial Services for Inclusive Economies” conference where he shared the key lessons learned from India’s successful implementation of Aadhaar to key regulators from Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria. To learn more about the conference click here

Estonia’s digital revolution Podcast with Kalle Palling

Estonia’s Digital Society with Kalle Palling


e-Estonia: the Development of Estonia’s Digital Society with Kalle Palling

As governments around the world wrestle with challenges from technology, including data collection and cyber threats, Estonia might offer a blueprint for how to build a digital society. Taxes are completed online in under 5 minutes,  47 percent of citizens use internet voting, and 99 percent of Estonia’s public services are available on the web 24 hours a day. This digital integration of almost all of the government services is especially remarkable, considering the financial state of the country nearly 30 years ago.

Estonia was a relatively poor country when it regained independence in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed. To modernize the economy, it embarked on a series of fast-track reforms and adopted a digital approach from the start. Today, Estonia is home to more private companies valued at more than $1 billion, per capita than any other small country in the world.

In this video, Kalle Palle, MP of Parliament (Reform), shares his thoughts on Estonia’s digital revolution and the consistent need for government transparency and accountability when it comes to cyber security.

Palle recently participated in the “Identifying Practical Solutions to Accelerating Digital Financial Services for Inclusive Economies” conference at the Bellagio Center in Italy where he shared the key lessons learned from Estonia’s successful implementation of the digital ID to key regulators from Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria.To find out more about the conference click here.

Women leaders with Aishah Ahmad

Increasing the pipeline of women leaders with Aishah Ahmad


Increasing the pipeline of women leaders with Aishah Ahmad

According to Oliver Wyman, financial services will not reach even 30% female Executive Committee representation globally until 2048 at current rates of growth.  In this short interview, Aishah Ahmad, a Deputy Governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria, discusses how financial institutions can increase the pipeline of women leaders by making sure top talent remains.

Ahmad recently participated in the “Identifying Practical Solutions to Accelerating Digital Financial Services for Inclusive Economies” conference at the Bellagio Center in Italy.  To find out more about the conference click here.

Practical Solutions for Regulators, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Identifying Practical Solutions for Regulators

In July 2019, CCX Inclusive Business (CCX), in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, convened a small number of senior financial sector policy-makers and regulators at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. Participants from three of the most important markets—Egypt, Nigeria, and Indonesia—along with experts from India, China, and Estonia, joined for a working meeting entitled, “Practical Solutions to Accelerating Digital Financial Services for Inclusive Economies.”