Making Digital Finance Work for Women in the MENA Region

  • Date Posted: February 12, 2021
  • Organizations/Projects: The BEAM Exchange
  • Document Types: Primer or Brief


A woman smiling

Despite progress over the past few years, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region still has the largest gender gap in terms of women’s economic participation in the world. This economic divide also holds true for financial inclusion.  Innovative Digital Financial Services (DFS) have strong potential to accelerate women’s financial empowerment.

The opportunities and challenges are explored here by showcasing 14 case studies from the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) and other organizations working in the region. Eight key lessons are presented on how to design and implement interventions that can pave the way for women’s digital financial empowerment across MENA and beyond.

The Brief aims to spark a discussion on opportunities to make digital finance work better for low-income women, by answering four key questions:

  1. How can we reconceptualize Digital Finance in the context of Market Systems Development (MSD) and Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) frameworks?
  2. What are the key opportunities and gender-related challenges associated with the digitization of finance in MENA?
  3. What lessons have AWEF and other practitioners observed from the field when building inclusive DFS ecosystems?
  4. How can we move beyond digital financial inclusion and advance approaches in Digital Financial Empowerment?