The Bank of Zambia (BoZ) estimates the gender gap with regard to access to financial services in the SADC region is around 6% in favour of men, while women make up over half of the unbanked population in Zambia.
Far from being a mere hurdle to economic growth, this disparity represents a significant market for various sectors – including finance – to tap into.
Though there is still plenty of work to be done, we have made remarkable progress toward bridging the gender gap in terms of women participation in leadership roles and the general economy.
Today, more women are taking up positions as leaders, employers, and influencers. To maximise the country’s benefit from this, key sectors of the economy such as the banking industry must take steps to cater to this growing market.
Banks have an important role to play in unlocking the immense capacity of women to make meaningful economic and social contributions through inclusive financial services.
Empowering women in this manner will create room for fresh ideas and innovations in various sectors thereby accelerating the country’s progress towards vision 2030 among other economic goals.
Managing Women’s Markets
Being a relatively new market segment due to the recent upswing in economic influence after a prolonged period of muzzled participation, there exists very few solutions to the unique challenges and opportunities the women’s market presents as a part of the national economy.
As such, if we are to realise the full benefits of gender equality as a country, all stakeholders must come together and liaise on how best we can support the market’s growth potential.
At Stanbic Bank, we are constantly looking for ways in which we can add value to women by providing relevant innovative financial solutions that suit their needs.
One of our main focuses as Stanbic is to actively seek to empower our female customers, with greater access to financial resources and knowledge management so they can grow and excel in their finances at whatever level through programmes such as the Stanbic Anakazi Banking.
Anakazi Banking is a success largely because it has been about the bank growing together with its customers and being the financial support and ‘muscle’, female-led enterprises need. To run and grow a successful business requires financial acumen and discipline. We believe in them, their visions for their businesses, and are willing to go the extra mile in providing support that goes beyond traditional banking services.
It is obviously challenging given the background against which we are working, but again that’s the beauty in a way because of the possibilities that open through the vast untapped market.
By increasing financial inclusion among women, we will be laying the foundation stones for a time where we see a burst of fresh ideas and innovations in various sectors coming from the different individuals.
This is part of the reason why it is important that as women we are out there in these places of influence paving the way not only for other women but for anyone with the potential to make positive contributions to the country’s economic growth.
Next to money, information is the currency of today. Timely and accurate information allows you to be effective and stay relevant; without the facts, decision making becomes an unreliable guessing game.
Having the right information at the right time can be the difference between success and failure – As the adage goes, ‘Knowledge is power.’
The ability to get the information you need is an underappreciated skill in today’s information flooded society. One must be persistent, specific, assertive and relentless in making known what you need and when you need it without disrupting relationships.
It comes down to creating a rapport with the people across the organization and the industry as it’s a give and take situation. You must also be able to provide information when needed so others are empowered to do their part as well.
And therein lies the importance of constantly learning and networking using the varios platforms we have available to us as women.
The challenge we have in front of us is that although women are an important demographic in society; the numbers are staggering as to the current state of financial exclusion with more than 1 billion operating outside the formal financial system’ globally.
But with more programmes and products that are women-centric in the sector and with the support of partners such as the Global Banking Alliance for Women, we are definitely heading in the right direction.
The Financial Alliance for Women – formerly the Global Banking Alliance for Women – is a global consortium of financial institutions dedicated to supporting banks as they capture the opportunity of the women’s market, with a membership representation from more than 135 countries.
The idea of learning, growing and pushing out of the comfort zone is exciting for many women in Zambia today because we not only have this knowledge that we are able to do more and that the tools are there but it is also the fact that there is a whole community that’s as excited about the next level of growth as we are.
Stanbic was the first financial institution in Zambia to join the Alliance and has long been championing financial inclusion for women through the platform that it provides as well as the Anakazi Banking preposition.
As a bank, we believe that capacity building is key to ensuring the sustainable growth of the women’s Market.
Through the workshops offered under the Anakazi Banking, we are able to drive this home to our customers and help them get their ‘ducks in a row’ and not necessarily for just credit purposes but even beyond that to the day to day running of their businesses.
The skills and knowledge that are being imparted to the women have had a ripple effect, affecting not just their businesses but also the social and economic environment in one way or the other.
By giving women entrepreneurs the tools they need to thrive in business, we help them gain financial independence and by extension create room for the expansion of the women’s market.
Women-owned businesses also play major roles in local economies and allowing these businesses to thrive and grow by ensuring access to innovative financial services will drive progress on several UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This is what makes the Anakazi Banking preposition so exciting. We look forward to seeing it grow even further and reach out to more women regardless of whether they are our customers or not.
We hope to see more confident female initiatives and led businesses and more importantly financial savvy women going forward.
Chanda Chime-Katongo is Stanbic Bank Zambia Head of Women Banking and Public Relations
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