In her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands on Thursday wrapped up a virtual country visit with Côte d'Ivoire. In bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Patrick Achi and other ministers, the Special Advocate explored how she and her partners could support and collaborate to jointly promote financial and digital inclusion in the country. She started the conversations with a pair virtual client visits.
In addition to meeting with the Prime Minister, the UNSGSA held discussions with Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Minister of Economy and Finance Adama Coulibaly, Minister of Digital Economy, Telecommunications, and Innovation Roger Felix Adom, and Minister of Commerce and Industry Souleymane Diarrassouba.
On the client visits, the Special Advocate had the opportunity to meet with a pair of micro-entrepreneurs to hear firsthand how access to and usage of quality digital financial services and products had benefitted their businesses and financial livelihoods.
Côte d'Ivoire is considered a leader in inclusive finance in West Africa due to the proliferation of mobile money, its well-developed national financial inclusion strategy (NFIS), and the presence of the Agence Pour la Promotion de l’Inclusion Financière (APIF) to coordinate financial inclusion efforts across government and the private sector.
According to the World Bank Global Findex (2017), 41% of adults 15+ in Côte d'Ivoire had access to an account, representing an increase from 34% in 2014—a rise largely driven by mobile money. However, financial inclusion appears more limited in rural areas and among underserved groups, such as the poor, women, SMEs and smallholders. This includes a gender gap of 11%, a one-point increase from 2014 (Findex). Of the eight million unbanked individuals in Cote d’Ivoire, 52% are women.
Priorities throughout discussions included an increased emphasis on access and usage of diversified products beyond payments for the underserved, as well as the role of financial services to support pandemic recovery.
For example, it was highlighted that SME finance could be further enabled by making operational the credit guarantee fund and developing the market for moveable asset-based lending. Meanwhile, financial inclusion for smallholder farmers could be boosted by digitizing value chains and integrating fintech solutions that connect famers to inputs and markets.
The Special Advocate and her partners also offered technical support to advance financial inclusion in Côte d'Ivoire, which included accelerating work on SME digital merchant payments under the digital finance working group of the NFIS. The UNSGSA also discussed with the Prime Minister the importance of putting in place digital public goods, as well as regional financial sector reforms such as modernizing the legal and regulatory framework for the banking and microfinance sectors, as well as finalizing the regional payments interoperability project.