Women in rural Africa heavily relying on phones to foster micro-businesses

Women in two African countries, Nigeria and Egypt, are set to benefit from a pilot project on how to increase use of mobile phones for their businesses as a follow up to research findings released Thursday by ExxonMobil Foundation and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

The study, done in Egypt, Nigeria and Indonesia, revealed mobile phones can help women entrepreneurs’ develop and grow their businesses using mobile phones.

According to the study, businesses owned by women are mostly concentrated in wholesale and retail, and include light manufacturing, hospitality and social services. It further revealed a large number of mobile technology-based solutions could support the business needs of women entrepreneurs if tailored and scaled commercially.

The study showed that despite the challenges in entrepreneurship, 88 percent of the women entrepreneurs were willing to use mobile value added services to address the core challenges. More than 82 percent of women entrepreneurs said they were willing to pay for these services.

Reflecting on the research findings, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women said the pilot project would follow the study to provide women entrepreneurs with tailored mobile phone applications to enable the women manage businesses more effectively.

“This groundbreaking research and subsequent pilot program will identify the technology that is most effective for women entrepreneurs and will provide women with new opportunities to maximize the effectiveness and reach of their businesses,” said Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

The high number of women entrepreneurs and the fact that they use mobile phone services extensively highlights an opportunity for the private sector to provide an innovative service, which focuses on this segment and helps women entrepreneurs develop their businesses at the same time, according to Cherie Blair Foundation.

The ExxonMobil Foundation president Suzanne McCarron said women entrepreneurs around the world lack access to the technology and resources needed to succeed.

“Expanding the effective uses of mobile technology can help women earn more income and lead to more prosperity for them, their families, their communities and their countries,” she stated.

The research report further stated that the increased penetration of mobile phones in developing and emerging markets presents high opportunity to women entrepreneurs who want to develop their micro-businesses.

Research was part of initiative, including pilot projects in Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria, supported by a US$1.5 million grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation. Over the last seven years, ExxonMobil has contributed US$53 million to spur economic opportunities for women globally.

Booz & Company, global management consultancy, conducted the research.

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