An app that offers economic opportunity to Nigerien women
Women in Niger can't open a regular bank account.Because they don't bank through formal means, that also means women can't make the large financial decisions – like taking out a small business loan, or buying a house – that men can and that allow for independence.
With our traditional village savings-and-loan groups, women jointly save up and give loans to each other. It's a method that thousands of women in Africa and Asia have already used with great success.
In Niger, we have now further developed the popular savings-and-loan groups by making them digital.
We have called the project "eArziki", which means "e-wealth" in Hausa, the country's majority language. While the savings-and-loan groups traditionally saved cash in a physical metal box, eArziki allows them to transfer money digitally via a specially-designed mobile app.
Using cashless transfers reduces the risk of theft and avoids the high fees of private-sector intermediaries. The women receive mobile phones and training in using the app so they can build financial security for themselves and their family.
Digital history builds better credit
In addition to their ease and security, a digital solution helps women prove their creditworthiness. When they borrow and pay back money through eArziki, the app records the transactions, building a digital credit history that they can use to show that they are reliable borrowers, thus opening more financial doors for themselves.
The women who are part of eArziki have the opportunity to borrow money to start a business, pay for the children's schooling, buy new farming supplies and support themselves if catastrophe strikes. This means that women gain self-confidence and their own voice in society. In other words, the savings-loan groups are a crucial step on the road to a more equal society.