Switching from cash to digital remittances, research insights from Wizall Money in Senegal

Authors: Sarah Lober, Mamadou Diallo, and Mahamadou Ilboudo

Key insights 

  • Senegal is one of the top remittance-receiving countries in Africa, and its remittance services market is ripe for digital innovation. Wizall Money is one of the few providers in Senegal offering mobile money payouts via its recently-introduced digital wallet

 

  • Only 20 percent of Wizall’s digital wallet customers are women. Lighter Know Your Customer (KYC) channels are more effective at reducing the digital divide than medium and full KYC processes, as lighter channels require fewer levels of authentication and fewer identification documents, which women often lack. 

 

  • Once Wizall customers switch from receiving remittances in cash to using a digital wallet, they rarely go back to cash. These “switch users” also transact more frequently and continuously and are more loyal than other customers.

 

  • Customers using Wizall’s digital services experience more positive financial outcomes—such as being able to handle financial emergencies and having less financial stress—than its cash users.

Introduction

Over the last decade, remittances have been of increasing importance to Senegal. In 2021, formal cross-border remittances accounted for 9.5 percent of the country’s GDP,  putting it among the top-remittance receiving countries in Africa.1 As of 2019, 23 percent of Senegalese households received remittances.2

The Senegalese remittance market is both competitive and ripe for digital innovation. Though 32 percent of adults in the country have a mobile money account, the majority of remittances sent to Senegal are received through cash, not a mobile wallet. This is unfortunate, as mobile wallets can offer customers time and cost savings and can serve as a gateway to other financial services. Limited use of mobile wallets for remittance receipt is largely a supply-side issue. Of the 39 financial service providers paying out remittances, only four offer mobile money payouts: Free Money, Orange Money, Wari and Wizall.3  

Wizall Money is a Senegal-based mobile wallet provider that also serves clients in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Mali, including with the reception of remittances. Wizall’s remittance transactions are on par with national trends and, for the most part, are terminated through in-person cash-out transactions via Wizall agents. In 2020, Wizall launched a wallet-terminated remittance service that grants customers immediate access to funds via their mobile phones.  

As part of a global effort to improve the access, usage, and financial resilience of migrants, UNCDF is collaborating with Wizall. In particular, the partnership aims to help accelerate the adoption of Wizall’s digital wallet. It also plans to launch a remittance-linked digital nano credit product that will draw on remittance customers’ usage data and transaction history to determine creditworthiness and offer a line of credit to migrants’ families for small business and daily needs purchases. 

This article explores key insights from UNCDF’s initial review of the profiles and behaviours of Wizall wallet customers. It aims to support Wizall in incorporating customer perspectives into its products and services. The research involved migrant-centric methods including an analysis of Wizall’s customer and transaction data and a computer-assisted telephone interview with gender-balanced groups of cash-only, wallet-only and cash-turned-wallet customers, conducted in March 2022. Together, this information offers insights into consumer behaviours and patterns and provides a multi-dimensional picture of remittance recipients and their families.

Access to digital remittances

Migrants’ access to digital remittances depends on the availability, safety and convenience of such solutions in both the home and host countries as well as migrants’ awareness of these services. Gender is a key dimension of access.  

While experience suggests that women tend to adopt digital channels at similar or even faster rates than men, women face greater initial barriers to accessing financial services such as remittances.4 To ensure that digital remittance services reach female recipients, who are more likely to spend remittance income on taking care of their families and paying for education and healthcare needs, the underlying market conditions causing gender disparities should be examined.5 UNCDF advocates for and supports companies like Wizall in identifying barriers for women and designing “gender-smart” products and services to address them.6  

The share of Wizall’s wallet customers that are female is currently below the global average, at only 20 percent. However, an analysis of the company’s customer data reveals that certain account opening processes, known in the fintech industry as Know Your Customer (KYC) channels, are more effective at closing the gender gap than others. As shown in Figure I, lighter KYC methods reach progressively more female customers, as they typically involve fewer levels of authentication and require fewer identification documents than full KYC processes. The lack of identification documents among women is a critical barrier to women’s financial inclusion broadly.7 Many women—both in Senegal and other low-income countries—are unregistered,8 and the process of receiving identification documents can be challenging.9 Some digital channels can offer lighter KYC methods to access financial services than traditional bank accounts, allowing them to more easily bridge the financial inclusion gender divide.  

Usage of Digital Remittances

The extent to which migrants use digital remittance services depends on whether the services are designed with migrants’ needs in mind and whether migrants understand and trust the services.  

Since the Wizall wallet was introduced in 2020, customers have been able to receive remittances either in cash or a digital wallet. Customer transaction data shows that once customers transition from cash to the digital wallet, they tend to be more likely to consider transacting than a customer who only receives money through Wizall either only in cash or only in their wallet. These customers, which we call “switch users,” exhibit distinct behaviour patterns, transacting more frequently and continuously than other customer segments. They are also the most loyal and have the lowest platform drop-off rates. In other words, switch users are Wizall’s best customers. In general, female switch users receive more transactions and stay with Wizall even longer than male switch users.

Financial resilience

Wizall and other remittance service providers can improve customers’ financial resilience, strengthening migrants’ financial health and ability to withstand setbacks. 

More than half of all surveyed customers report an increased ability to handle financial emergencies since they started using Wizall. As shown in Figure III, this impact is most common among wallet-only users (71 percent), followed by switch (65 percent) and cash-only users (59 percent).  

Similarly, around a third of surveyed customers report that their stress related to receiving money from abroad has decreased since starting to use Wizall. As shown in Figure IV, stress reduction was greatest among wallet-only (39 percent) and switch users (37 percent) relative to cash users (29 percent).  

Next steps

A remittance customer’s usage and transaction history are two important factors that could be used to determine creditworthiness. UNCDF is supporting Wizall Money to explore the implementation of a nano loan product for remittance recipients in Senegal and across West Africa, designed to be used for livelihoods, small businesses, and consumption. Following these research efforts and a gap analysis, the research team is developing a credit scorecard which incorporates this more comprehensive understanding of the customer that they profile. The goal is to improve the depth of credit information systems and intermediary efficiency to advance the financial inclusion outcomes for the country and the region. 

In the next research phase, Wizall Money and UNCDF will continue to explore customers’ motivations and needs by employing qualitative research tools. The questions of how to improve access for underserved population segments, what compels customers to begin using a wallet to receive remittances, and how remittances, and the channel through which they are received, can impact a customer’s financial resilience while contributing to the financial stability of the country, will continue to be explored. 


References

  1. Knomad/World Bank, Remittance Inflows database, May 2022. Available at https://www.knomad.org/data/remittances.
  2. Remitscope, “Senegal.” Available at https://remitscope.org/africa/senegal.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Claire Scharwatt, “Mobile money: A product of choice for women to send and receive remittances,” GSMA, 22 October 2019. Available at https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/blog/mobile-money-a-product-of-choice-for-women-to-send-and-receive-remittances/#_ftn13.
  5. International Organization for Migration, Gender, Migration and Remittances. Available at https://www.iom.int/sites/g/files/tmzbdl486/files/about-iom/Gender-migration-remittances-infosheet.pdf.
  6. Uloma Ogba, Julie Kamau and Saskia Vossenberg, Designing Migrant-Centric and Gender-Smart Digital Remittances (UNCDF, 2021). Available at https://migrantmoney.uncdf.org/migrant-centric-and-gender-smart-digital-remittances. Robin Gravesteijn, Cavelle Dove, Houle Cao, Alejandro González-Caro, Mayank Kumar Jain and Eva Ren, Towards Gender-Smart Microfinance Product Development and Enterprise Lending Case  Studies  From  Myanmar (UNCDF, 2021). Available at https://www.uncdf.org/article/7378/towards-gender-smart-microfinance-product-development-and-enterprise-lending-in-myanmar. 

  7. Alliance for Financial Inclusion, Gender Considerations in Balancing Financial Inclusion and Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing Of Terrorism, Guideline Note No. 31 (Kuala Lumpur, 2018). Available at https://www.afi-global.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/2018-11/AFI%20GSP_laundering_stg7.pdf.

  8. Forty-five percent of women in low-income countries are unregistered compared to 30 percent of men.  VyjayantiT. Desai, Anna Diofasi and Jing Lu, The global identification challenge: Who are the 1 billion people without proof of identity?” World Bank Blogs, 25 April 2018. https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/global-identification-challenge-who-are-1-billion-people-without-proof-identity).

  9. While gender-disaggregated data is not available for Senegal, laws making the process to obtain identification equal for men and women were only based in 2016. Henriqueta Hunguana, Abdou Salam Fall, Gisele Yitamben, Marcelina Goases and Shungu Gwarinda, Women’s Financial Inclusion in Senegal (New Faces New Voices/Graca Machel Trust, 2020). Available at https://idl-bnc-idrc.dspacedirect.org/bitstream/handle/10625/59155/59309.pdf).

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