Mobile Retail Channels Study

An in-depth study on the role of women in the mobile phone industry, published in 2011.

Women Entrepreneurs in Mobile Retail Channels

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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.

Key Findings

  • 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.

Key Recommendations

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.

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.