Thanks to a strong national financial inclusion strategy and the spread of mobile money, Côte d’Ivoire has the potential to be at the forefront of financial inclusion in West Africa. According to the World Bank Global Findex, in 2021 51% of adults have access to an account, compared with 34% in 2014 and 41% in 2017.
The country is firmly committed to expanding financial inclusion, particularly by capitalizing on the promise of technology-driven solutions. Last year, when the UNSGSA met with Ivoirian leaders virtually, they affirmed Côte d’Ivoire’s goal of reaching 60% inclusion by 2024 and digitizing 80% of the government’s financial flows.
However, reaching these ambitious targets will require innovative strategies to reach micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which make up a significant portion of the country’s economy, as well as women and smallholder farmers. Building on her productive virtual conversations from 2021, the UNSGSA traveled to Côte d’Ivoire from 13–14 June 2022 for a series of meetings with high-level officials, international development partners, and private sector leaders.
During her visit, the Special Advocate met with First Lady Dominique Ouattara, who is involved in microfinance for women, as well as with Prime Minister Patrick Achi, Vice President Tiémoko Meyliet Koné, and Minister of Finance Adama Coulibaly. She also met with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and SME Promotion.
While in Abidjan, Queen Máxima also participated in a panel at the 2022 Africa CEO Forum on how fintech can boost financial inclusion in Africa.
During her meetings with policymakers, the UNSGSA discussed several key priorities for Côte d’Ivoire to consider in support of its digitization efforts.
1. Digital Identification
In her meetings, the UNSGSA expressed support for the country’s strategy to reach universal coverage of a biometric-based digital ID system. She urged leaders to accelerate their existing approach to identification and to explore possible approaches and models for acceleration, options for providers, enrollment strategies, roll-out, and possible use cases (e.g., e-services, e-signature, and e-know-your-customer (e-KYC). The Special Advocate also encouraged policymakers to identify areas of alignment with existing efforts to develop a National ID Number, as well as with the West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) supported by the World Bank.
2. Connectivity and Affordability
Even as Côte d’Ivoire has moved toward greater use of mobile money and other digital services, many people are still unable to connect to the internet due to a lack of coverage. The UNSGSA called on leaders to identify and address factors affecting affordability, such as a competition policy for mobile and fixed broadband providers, taxation, and data sharing arrangements between market actors. She also highlighted the importance of a strategy to address connectivity gaps, including for rural dwellers and women.
3. Acceleration of Digital Payments: Key Use Cases
Digital payments will also play an important role in broadening inclusion in Côte d’Ivoire. Queen Máxima expressed her support for the country’s efforts to accelerate government-to-person (G2P) payments, as well as its strategy to incentivize digitization of payment to MSMEs, other merchants, and agricultural value chain players. She also highlighted the need to digitize microfinance institutions.
The Special Advocate noted there are 26 ongoing digitization projects and discussed the importance of oversight and alignment among these projects. Making sure that existing government platforms are fully interoperable is a key piece of this. The UNSGSA also offered to provide technical support on ongoing efforts to upgrade the legal framework regarding cybersecurity, data protection, e-transactions, e-services, and consumer rights. Along with these policies, she emphasized the need for digital literacy and financial consumer protection.
4. Agricultural Finance
The Special Advocate met with the State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and highlighted the importance of innovative solutions to deepen financial inclusion for smallholder farmers, which is important for food security and economic output in Côte d’Ivoire. The UNSGSA stressed the importance of digitizing key agricultural value chains to improve economic opportunities for smallholder farmers, including by connecting them to new markets.
The Special Advocate also welcomed and encouraged prioritizing agricultural finance projects within the NFIS. Advancing on risk-based consumer due diligence and identification will also support the financial inclusion of smallholder farmers.
Better than Cash Alliance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, the World Bank.