Obstacles to financial emergence of women in Cameroon
In Cameroon the banks and microfinance institutions (MFI) are concentrated primarily in urban areas, and offer very little in the way of financial services adapted to the needs of agriculture and agro-industrial enterprises. Women are most affected by these restrictions, since the financial products and services take least account of their financial and cultural constraints. Only 10 per ent of Cameroon women have an account with a formal financial institution, compared with 18 per cent of men*.
As a result, women farmers are less able to save and prepare for unforeseen and other crises. In order to develop concrete ideas and activities to improve access by women producers and entrepreneurs to financial products and services, the Global Project “Promotion of agricultural finance for agri-based enterprises in rural areas” (GP AgFin) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has carried out a study with the objective of identifying factors limiting access of rural women to financial services in Cameroon.
Individual interviews were conducted with selected resource persons (39 in all, 16 women and 23 men). Focus group discussions were held with farmers (male and female) benefiting from support by GP AgFin and also with women not benefiting from financial services promoted by the project. In all, 11 focus groups reached 110 individuals (65 women and 45 men).
Data collection began in late 2022 in the Centre, West and Adamawa regions. Analysis of the data showed that limited access for women to financial services is due to factors on both the supply side (MFI and banks) and the demand side (women farmers and entrepreneurs).
Cumbersome and inflexible formalities on the part of the financial institutions are limiting access for women
On the supply side of financial products and services by the MFI and banks, the study showed that access requires cumbersome and inflexible formalities, which limits access for women, and particularly rural women. It is often mandatory to open an account before any financial services are available, and conditions are unfavourable for women generally and rural women in particular. The requirement for a guarantee in the form of material assets in a social context where women have limited access to household land assets creates discrimination in the supply of credit.
Women have difficulty in providing guarantees to the MFI. In addition, part of the amount required (financial guarantee) and proof of their income-generating activities are not easily obtained by women starting out.
Other factors limiting access on the supply side are the weak geographical coverage of financial products and services in rural areas, and the inadequacy of communication and effective marketing of the services, particularly sensitive marketing to women.
On the demand side, the low level of education and literacy among women was noted. This is predominantly linked to the low level of school attendance of girls in some regions, particularly Adamawa. They are less exposed to information on the availability of financial services and conditions for access. The lack of essential civil status documents is another problem for access for rural women. The lack of financial education among women and the lack of digital education in the face of an increase in digitalisation leaves them largely unaware of the risks and opportunities in financial matters.
In addition to these factors, there is women’s fear of taking risks. This lack of confidence is the result of a lack of financial culture.
The study concluded that most financial products and services developed by providers of financial services are standard and lack gender sensitivity. In terms of access to financial services, women’s lack of knowledge of business, information technology and financial management is an obstacle. It is reinforced by a patriarchal socio-cultural environment which discriminates against women in access to land, goods and inheritance.
*Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family/UN Women (2020) : Cameroun. Profil Genre-Pays. Profil-Genre-Final-Final-BON.pdf (ins-cameroun.cm)
Authors: Christian Eloundou & Corinna Schüller, technical advisors at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Yaoundé, Cameroon