Developing digital solutions to meet the needs of Zambian mothers

  • May 16, 2018

  • Lusaka, Zambia

By Uloma Ogba, Project & Knowledge Management Consultant

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On Sunday 13 May, many regions of the world celebrated Mother’s Day, to honor mothers and acknowledge their influence in society.

One in three Zambian women are mothers, over 1.5 million people. Yet, there are no digital solutions on the market that cater to their specific needs and characteristics.

In October 2017, in partnership with a research firm Afriqinsights, MM4P kicked off a research project to delve deeper into the lives of Zambian mothers and understand their (non) financial habits and challenges, household dynamics, as well as their dreams and aspirations.

Results indicate that 50% of mothers in Zambia are rural, low- and middle-income. And they are the least likely to have used or even heard of digital financial services. Only 40% of them have a mobile wallet registered in their name. And of those that have a wallet, less than 60% have used the wallet to conduct a transaction in the last three months. Mothers in this group have mostly used their mobile wallets to receive money from family and friends in urban areas and to save a little bit when they could. However, most them are unaware of other digital services, such as bill or merchant payments, credit and insurance.

When we asked mothers in this group what they would like to use a mobile wallet for, they responded that they would want to save for their children’s school fees, access credit to establish or expand their small businesses, and pay for utilities such as electricity and water on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Mothers in this group are particularly susceptible to income shocks from unexpected expenditures, which can have long-lasting and negative consequences on their financial health. 50% of them indicated that, in such circumstances, they were forced to dip into their already meager savings. The other 50% relied on their partners, family and friends for support, sometimes through loans that they often struggled to pay back.

Research also highlights that 45% of rural, low- and middle- income mothers were unable to financially plan and save for the birth of their children. Post-pregnancy, mothers in this group also struggle to keep up with the expenses related to childbirth including food, clothing and healthcare. If maternal and child health outcomes for Zambian mothers and their children are to be improved, then innovative solutions, including digital solutions, must be developed to help mothers manage their expenses pre- and post-pregnancy.

Based on all the insights gathered during the research, MM4P is working to identify the right institutions and stakeholders to partner with to develop viable solutions to help Zambian mothers build a better future for themselves and their families.