The mobile industry is fast-paced and diverse, driven largely by innovation and the huge increases in consumer demand that have occurred in recent years. Women in particular stand to gain a great deal from selling mobile products and services, as setting up a mobile phone business presents fewer barriers than many other income-generating activities that exist in an emerging market. However, in order for women to flourish within the mobile industry, they must be supported by the companies and network operators that serve the markets in which these women live. The mobile sector has a significant opportunity to promote positive socio-economic change by fostering the capability and confidence of women entrepreneurs working in their retail chains and by recognizing and providing solutions to overcoming traditional barriers to finance that many women face.

Working in partnership with STC and market research firm TNS, the Foundation in 2011 undertook an in-depth study on the role of women in the mobile phone industry, highlighting the social and economic advantages of including more women entrepreneurs into the mobile value chain. The study drew participation from 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.

‘I feel female agents are better and they are more hardworking than males. Female sales agents are quick, cooperative faithful and hardworking.’
– Distributor, Uganda


  • Women in the mobile value chain benefit from skills training, income for the household and better economic prospects.
  • The study demonstrates advantages for mobile operators who include women in their retail chains, including higher revenue potential through improved sales, stronger brand imaging and access to untapped markets.
  • 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.


While there has been an increase in the volume of literature that exists on women in the mobile value chain since this report, there is certainly scope for operators to collect more data from retail agents from a gender perspective. Training programmes should be developed for women which incorporate business training, access to capital and confidence building measures – see our Women Mobile Money Agents in Africa project as an example.

Finally, collaboration between Mobile Network Operators and NGOs on joint programmes can bring about significant results in terms of tangible economic opportunities for women and increased sales for the operator, as evidenced in our Business Women service available in Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia, in addition to our novel supply chain management solution in India.


stc logo

The Saudi Telecommunication Group provides integrated mobile, fixed and broadband communications services to over 142 million subscribers in 10 markets including Saudi Arabia. Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, STC is the largest telecommunications company by market capitalisation, total revenue and number of employees in the Arab State region.

tns logo

TNS RMS is a leading research organisation in Africa, with 20% market share and employees with hands-on experience in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and South Africa. TNS RMS is part of TNS Global, the world’s largest Custom Market Research specialists.


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