Majority of female entrepreneurs in MEA have digital presence for their businesses

Nearly 30% of women experience no challenges in accepting digital payments compared with cash, new survey finds

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About 81 per cent of female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa have a digital presence for their businesses, compared with 68 per cent of men, according to a new survey by payments company Mastercard.

About 71 per cent of the region’s female entrepreneurs say they use social media while 57 per cent have a company website, the survey, which polled more than 1,530 respondents, found.

“Over 80 per cent of women entrepreneurs have digital readiness for their business compared to their male counterparts but yet so few have access to funding for their business growth,” Amnah Ajmal, Mastercard’s executive vice president for market development in MEA, said.

While female-owned businesses are well represented in the entrepreneurship space globally, it is estimated that they access only 2 per cent to 10 per cent of commercial bank finance, Ms Ajmal said.

“This reflects the huge potential SME [small and medium enterprises] women entrepreneurs have when we accelerate their access to financial and digital tools, which will enable greater gender parity in the business ecosystem,” she added.

The low use of external finance by female entrepreneurs is caused by a combination of factors, the World Bank said in a 2018 report. These include gender discrimination in financial markets that restrict access to credit or increase the cost of credit for women, in addition to demand side constraints that occur when women refrain from applying for external finance, because they are more risk averse or expect to be rejected, according to the Washington-based lender.

Mastercard has pledged $250 million and committed to connecting 50 million micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses, including 25 million female entrepreneurs, globally to the digital economy by 2025.

Despite some challenges, entrepreneurial women lead the way in tapping into the power of the digital economy to succeed and grow the businesses. If men and women participated equally as entrepreneurs, the global economy could rise a further 3 per cent to 6 per cent, a recent report by Boston Consulting Group said.

Women-owned SMEs in the MEA region believe a cash-free economy can benefit their businesses and they are confident about adopting digital transactions, the Mastercard survey found.

Nearly 30 per cent of female entrepreneurs said they experience no challenges in accepting digital payments compared with cash payments – especially mobile payments (62 per cent), online payments (57 per cent) and card payments (45 per cent), Mastercard found.

Meanwhile, 60 per cent also cited increased efficiency of transactions across multiple channels and the ease of not handling cash as the main benefits of a cash-free economy.

Other benefits include more convenient ways of paying suppliers and employees (59 per cent), faster access to revenue (55 per cent), less potential for fraud (53 per cent) and access to new business growth opportunities (50 per cent).

Updated: August 12, 2021, 7:36 AM