‘Women’s in­clu­sion spurs growth’

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

A CALL has been made to har­ness the gains made in fos­ter­ing women’s fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion to en­sure Le­sotho’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­dress­ing a fo­rum to ex­plore ways to in­crease women’s fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion in Maseru this week, Cen­tral Bank of Le­sotho (CBL) Gov­er­nor Dr Retšelisit­soe Mat­lanyane said more still needed to be done in that re­gard.

Held un­der the theme “Ad­vanc­ing Women Fi­nan­cial In­clu­sion in Le­sotho”, the fo­rum was or­gan­ised by the CBL and at­tended by prom­i­nent women in var­i­ous sec­tors.

Among the at­ten­dees was First Lady ‘Mathato Mo­sisili, Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Ntl­hoi Mot­samai, New Faces New Voic­esGraça Machel Trust Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Nomsa Daniels and Fed­er­a­tion of Women Lawyers rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kuena Tha­bane.

Dr Mat­lanyane said while women in Le­sotho were bet­ter off than their south­ern Africa re­gion coun­ter­parts in terms of fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion, “there is much scope for im­prove­ment”.

“When we com­pare Le­sotho with coun­tries such as Botswana, Swazi­land, Namibia and South Africa, we are ex­celling in pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion to women,” she said.

“We how­ever still have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to im­prove the liveli­hoods of more peo­ple.”

Dr Mat­lanyane said the up­swing in fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion could be at­trib­uted to re­cent le­gal re­forms that en­abled women to ac­cess fi­nan­cial credit from banks.

“In re­cent years, the bank­ing sec­tor ex­pe­ri­enced a surge in mi­cro-fi­nan­cial lend­ing which came about through the re­cent im­ple­men­ta­tion of laws such as the Mar­ried Per­sons Act of 2006 which en­abled women to ob­tain credit from banks with­out the con­sent of their spouses,” the cen­tral bank chief noted.

“Prior to 2006, mar­ried women in Le­sotho had been re­garded as mi­nors or in­ca­pable of ob­tain­ing credit from banks with­out the con­sent of their spouses. But the en­act­ment of that law has en­abled more women to ac­cess credit in­de­pen­dent of their spouses.”

She stressed the need for more re­forms to en­able marginalised women to ac­cess credit.

“There are groups of peo­ple within our pop­u­la­tion who are still ex­cluded, such as the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion, but thanks to mo­bile phone ser­vices, a ma­jor­ity are now able to make mo­bile trans­fers,” Dr Mat­lanyane said.

“The other group is mi­nors who are of­ten en­trusted with the care of other mi­nors. De­spite th­ese ese set­backs, mi­nors and women have demon­strated a great ca­pac­ity to suc­ceed in busi­ness over the years.

“I be­lieve if we could fo­cus on th­ese groups by iden­ti­fy­ing im­ped­i­ments to their fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion and im­ple­ment ap­pro­pri­ate re­forms to har­ness their po­ten­tial, our econ­omy would be boosted.”

In her ad­dress, Ms Daniels said New Faces New Voices was es­tab­lished un­der the Graça Machel Trust with the aim of im­prov­ing women’s ac­cess to fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

She said Le­sotho was far­ing bet­ter than other South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) coun­tries in terms of fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor.

“In many ways, Le­sotho is sur­pris­ing in com­par­i­son to other coun­tries in the SADC re­gion. Eighty-one per­cent of adults are said to be fi­nan­cially in­cluded, while 38 per­cent are banked ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Fins­cope 2011 sur­vey which might be a lit­tle bit out of date, al­though it is their lat­est re­port,” said Ms Daniels.

“Nine­teen per­cent of women in Le­sotho are fi­nan­cially ex­cluded, which is tremen­dous progress com­pared the con­ti­nen­tal sit­u­a­tion is. It shows that you are do­ing some­thing right.”

The higher num­ber of banked women in con­trast to their male coun­ter­parts was an­other sur­pris­ing fea­ture in the coun­try, she said.

“What is also in­ter­est­ing in Le­sotho is the per­cent­age of women who are banked is slightly higher than the men. When I first saw the sta­tis­tics, I was puz­zled, but as I re­searched, I learnt that it is be­cause of the ra­tio of men to women in the pop­u­la­tion with. Sixty-two per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in Le­sotho is fe­male ver­sus the 38 per­cent which is male.”

Ms Daniels said the num­bers were equally im­pres­sive in other for­mal sec­tors such as in­sur­ance.

“If we look at non-bank­ing ser­vices, sta­tis­tics show that 82 per­cent have ac­cess or use of in­sur­ance. And if you take th­ese sta­tis­tics at face value in com­par­i­son with other African coun­tries, it is hard to know ex­actly what is driv­ing this. But in the con­ver­sa­tion I had with the (CBL) gov­er­nor last night, I was told it is due to many peo­ple hav­ing fu­neral poli­cies.”

She also called for more re­forms to in­clude in­for­mal busi­nesses into the fi­nan­cial sec­tor.

“Eighty-five per­cent of busi­nesses in Le­sotho are not banked. This is a trou­bling statis­tic be­cause it means the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple op­er­at­ing SMES (small and medium-sized en­ter­prises) are not banked,” noted Ms Daniels.

“So here is an im­merse op­por­tu­nity to serve this seg­ment of the mar­ket which is be­ing poorly served at the mo­ment but which we saw from ear­lier ev­i­dence can re­ally be the en­gine that drives growth and em­ploy­ment in our coun­tries.”

She said em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence the world over showed the in­for­mal sec­tor had a po­ten­tial to con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“There is also ev­i­dence from data col­lected that fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion is pos­i­tively cor­re­lated with gross do­mes­tic prod­uct growth, so the more peo­ple we bring in our fi­nan­cial sys­tem, the stronger our economies would be,” she said.

Prior to 2006, mar­ried women in Le­sotho had been re­garded as mi­nors or in­ca­pable of ob­tain­ing credit from banks with­out the con­sent of their spouses. But the en­act­ment of that law has en­abled more women to ac­cess credit in­de­pen­dent of their spouses

NINE­TEEN per­cent of women in Le­sotho are fi­nan­cially ex­cluded ac­cord­ing to Fins­cope.

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