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The Impacts of Liquidity Loans to Mobile Money Agents on Women Agents’ Empowerment, and Their Business and Transaction Behavior

Financial Inclusion Myanmar

Saleswoman in a shop in Mawlamyaingyun, Myanmar | Credit: Marcel Crozet


Mobile money networks are seen as an important pathway to financial inclusion in countries with less developed financial sectors. However, digital financial services through mobile money rely on a network of agents who need to have sufficient balances of e-money or physical cash on hand, known as “float,” to meet the needs of their clients to cash in or cash out e-money. Financial management of these agent networks could affect not only the agents themselves, who are also typically small business owners, but also the extent to which digital financial services benefit end-users.

Study Design

The research team is partnering with a mobile money provider to investigate the impacts of digital loans issued to mobile money agents. The researchers will use transaction data and additional surveys to measure the impact of digital credit and loan size on mobile money activity and the micro and small enterprises operated by mobile money agents, 80% of whom are women. They will investigate whether the loans can empower female agents in the context of their businesses, households, and communities. Further, they will investigate whether the allocation of extra float to female agents, who may have superior information on the economic needs of women, may lead to increased allocation of transaction opportunities to women.

Results and Policy Lessons

Preliminary results focused on agents’ mobile money transactions volume, agent loyalty (measured by how many providers they work with), and women’s economic empowerment. The loans initially increased agents’ mobile money transactions by up to 15% in the first month, but this increase quickly dissipated and the effect was muted 3+ months later. The loans had very low default rates (less than 1%) and reduced the likelihood of working with a different mobile money company by 20%, making them commercially valuable to the provider. However, researchers did not detect changes in women’s empowerment in the overall analysis (on women themselves, nor empowering women in their communities).

  • Russell Toth
  • Innovations for Poverty Action (Myanmar)

2019 — 2021

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