Increasing financial access in Ethiopia through mobile money: Results from experiments to catalyze enrollment and use among women and refugees

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by Alan de Brauw


The mobile money revolution has begun to substantially increase financial access around the world. Mobile money accounts allow people previously excluded from the formal financial sector to access savings accounts, make payments to merchants, and make person-to-person transfers, among other services. Research has shown that mobile money access can have important effects on key outcomes such as improved resilience and food security. Marginalized communities are seeing benefits; for instance, by catalyzing market integration, increases in mobile money use in areas surrounding refugee camps can potentially help better integrate refugees with the host communities.

However, some groups may still be less likely to enroll in or use mobile money services. In areas studied by the Strengthening Host and Refugee Populations in Ethiopia (SHARPE) market systems development program, women in the host community and refugees in general both tend to enroll in and use (conditional on enrollment) mobile money with a lower frequency than men in the host community. To test ways to increase enrollment and use among target groups, IFPRI and Dadimos Development Consulting collaborated with SHARPE and Shabelle Bank to design two randomized trials to test methods of increasing enrollment and use: A referral study to promote enrollment and an incentives study among enrolled customers to promote use. This post outlines the results, which were mixed.

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