Great opportunities for women in Middle East mobile market

Middle Eastern and African mobile operators stand to make gains from employing more women in their retail chains, including higher revenue potential through improved sales, stronger brand imaging and access to untapped markets. The findings come from a report undertaken by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, regional carrier STC and market research firm TNS.

According to the report, mobile retail sales present a flexible and relatively easy business opportunity for women entrepreneurs, although the findings reveal regional variations in women’s participation in the mobile value chain. In India, Indonesia and the Middle East, it was found that the majority of participants in the mobile value chain were male, while in Africa and the Philippines most mobile vendors were found to be women, although the majority are working at the micro-level.

The study drew participation from several mobile network operators, distributors, vendors and other industry stakeholders across 11 markets including Bahrain, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa, Tanzania, the Philippines and Uganda.

The researchers cite Vodafone Qatar’s ‘Al-Johara’ scheme as an example of the benefits of such collaboration. In the context of Qatar, where cultural considerations may limit the participatory options of women in the nation’s mobile value chain, ‘Al-Johara’ provides women with training, leading to increased skills for the women and increased sales for Vodafone Qatar.

Yet noting that statistics in this domain are hard to come by, the report urges mobile network operators and distributors to build a business case by collecting data on the performance of their retail agents from a gender perspective. Governments and NGOs are encouraged to work together to create targeted initiatives to drive female participation in the mobile value chain.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Cherie Blair, said: “Women entrepreneurs stand to gain a great deal from selling mobile products. Setting up a mobile sales business is relatively easy and has a flexibility that suits the way many women live their lives. But there is also a real business case for mobile operators to include women in mobile value chains, as they offer significant advantages such as better branding and access to new markets.”

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