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By Wendy Teleki

The COVID-19 pandemic has made evident how critical digital transformation is for entrepreneurs everywhere.   Nowhere is this more apparent than in the digital finance and ecommerce space which can help women entrepreneurs take control of their finances, sales and purchases. These solutions can disproportionately benefit women whether they are at home during a lockdown, working evenings after the putting children to bed, living far from financial or commercial marketplaces, or just looking for greater efficiency and options.  While women entrepreneurs are adopting and adjusting to digital solutions in droves, the platforms can do more to address the unique needs of this important business segment.

The fintech space is a classic example of an industry where solutions are not always designed with a full understanding of women’s needs.  Although fintech companies build their business around big data, many of them either do not have, or do not use that data to understand the unique needs of women clients.  For that reason, We-Fi recently supported a fintech hackathon to spur innovations in the fintech space to benefit women.  The Alliance Hack, organized by the Financial Alliance for Women (FAW), is one of the first initiatives aimed at motivating fintech firms to focus on the women’s market, reflecting our belief that these firms can be a gamechanger in driving women’s financial inclusion and independence.

The FAW hackathon resulted in an award for TymeGlobal, a digital bank that is operating in South Africa and several other countries.  Tyme, like many fintechs, has focused on the consumer/microenterprise market with low-cost accounts and transaction capabilities accessible at local supermarkets.  Now, they are launching an innovative new approach for women-led small businesses, which combines account and payment services, with credit and ecommerce services in an integrated package. Tyme’s solution increases the level of digital information available on the business, allowing the firm to provide specially designed financing products that focus on revenue expansion. There were honorable mentions for Ndovu, from Kenya, for their micro investment platform that provides easy access to African financial markets, and GFI Fintech, from Malaysia, for psychometric credit scoring system which is enabling MSME lenders to confidently and cost-effectively lend to thin file clients, many who are women, in emerging markets.

The hackathon was informed by the recently launched study into fintech and the female economy called ‘How Fintechs can profit from the Multi-Trillion-Dollar Female Economy’, which surveyed 168 fintech firms and 30 investors and other ecosystem players around the world. It concluded among others Fintechs that track key performance indicators by sex show a compelling business case for serving the women’s market. Sixty-four percent of fintechs that collect sex-disaggregated usage data found that female customers have similar or higher usage rates than men.