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Mind the Gap: Bridging the Gender Divide at Opportunity International Savings and Loans, Ghana

By Opportunity International

Women in low and middle-income countries are 10% less likely than men to own a phone and 23% less likely to use mobile internet.

We regularly host roundtable events about Digital Financial Services (DFS) - bringing together leaders in technology, development and business to discuss difficult questions. 

As financial services increasingly digitise, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the question on the table at our latest event was – how can Opportunity International help tackle this gender divide?

At our most recent event attendees highlighted:

  • The importance of viewing interventions through the lens of the women that are being engaged
  • Using human centred design with women-only feedback loops
  • Ensuring that DFS are truly accessible to women, in relevant and easy to understand formats


We now speak with Christie Kouffie, Head of Transformation at Opportunity International Savings and Loan, Ghana, who gives us additional insights.

Please can you tell us a bit about your work with Opportunity Ghana?

My team establish and coordinate the implementation of our transformation strategy, services and programmes; empowering clients and staff to become more confident and socially responsible.  We do this through training and tailor-made development mechanisms. We promote a balance of social and financial considerations in planning, objective setting and execution.

Opportunity Bank Ghana serves 584,703 depositors (63% women) with loans, deposit products, Micro Insurance and other transformational non-financial services.  We’ve served the people of Ghana over the past seventeen years through our network of 36 branches, 5 agencies, 19 ATMs and 4 mobile vans. 21 of our branches are located in rural areas.

Can you tell us more about the digital gender gap at Opportunity Ghana?

Opportunity Ghana has had a gender gap in mobile banking of around 30-35% over the past few years. Women are lagging behind.  

We’re addressing this by providing regular training for clients - even during the pandemic.  We encourage these women to attend the training by feeding them and providing money for transport, as well as allowing them to bring their children to trainings.  We also give out phones to some of them who do not have phones.

What are the key barriers you’ve seen women clients face in accessing and using digital financial services?

Firstly, they may not have phones or have limited access to phones. Women may have had limited exposure to technology, they don’t see the benefit, or they lack literacy and numeracy and don’t have time to learn. Women may also be lacking in confidence. There’s sometimes a lack of trust in DFS and fears about the security of their money. Often mobile banking – such as the language used or the function design – is designed by men who may not take into account women’s specific needs.

How does the Covid-19 pandemic present new challenges and opportunities for bridging digital gender gaps?

We had to cut back on in-person training activities on subjects including digital literacy during lockdowns. We saw higher instances of fraud country-wide during the pandemic period. We’ve also seen prices go up and clients’ incomes negatively impacted, resulting in reduced bank transactions and use of DFS.

There are opportunities for using alterative platforms for communicating with clients digitally at times like these – such as interactive voice response messages.

On the upside, lower digital transaction costs brought about by the Government and Mobile Network Operators’ has the potential to positively impact women’s use of DFS. We have also seen clients’ trust in the delivery of digital services increase and this has led to the entrance of clients to mobile banking. 

How can organisations prevent digital gender gaps?   

We need to help women become confident and active users of DFS. We can provide women with more instruction time and by identifying what women care about; their common financial needs and linking them to the benefits of DFS to encourage them to use the service.

We have to work hard to reduce and eliminate the risks and barriers. Reducing transaction costs would be a good start. We should undertake promotional activities especially in markets and churches where women are. Organisations need to consistently perform what they promised in order to win the trust of women and need to make deliberate efforts to reach women with tailored solutions.  

Thank you to Christie for her time, expertise and sharing her wisdom with us.  

The next event in our Roundtable Discussion Series:

Episode 3: Refugee to Entrepreneur – Overcoming the challenges of delivering digital financial services to refugees.

When: 28th September 2021

Where: St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

Time: 18:00-20:00 (includes a tour of Opportunity International’s photo exhibition sharing the remarkable stories of refugees in Uganda.)

Refugees often lack official ID, registration or assets that make it possible for traditional banks to offer them formal financial services. What role can digital financial services play in allowing them to move from dependence on handouts to independence, living lives with dignity and purpose?

  • Join Liz Allcock, Humanitarian and Development Specialist with 15 years’ of experience including with the UN and International NGOs, and senior team members of Opportunity International
  • Martin Tirigo, Director of DFS for Africa
  • Sally Vicaria, Director of International Programmes UK
  • Noah Ssempijja, Refugee Programme Coordinator in Uganda, for a participatory discussion on how we can address this challenge

If you would like to attend this event please contact Matt Wenham at [email protected]

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