Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), will visit Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal on 13-16 June 2022. The UNSGSA aims to support a range of inclusive finance priorities in close collaboration with key leaders and stakeholders in each country, as well as meet with local customers who use and benefit from financial services and products.
The trip is the first in-person “country visit” Queen Máxima will take in her capacity as the UNSGSA since prior to the pandemic. The West Africa region represents a priority area of focus for the UNSGSA’s efforts to bolster financial and digital inclusion, along with financial health, and follows on virtual visits with both Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal in 2021.
Both countries have opportunities to be at the forefront of financial inclusion in West Africa, with growth being driven by digital payments. As a result, both have potential to be leaders in the region.
According to the latest World Bank’s Global Findex (2017), in Côte d'Ivoire, 41% of adults (aged 15+) had access to an account, representing an increase from 34% in 2014—largely due to the spread of mobile money and a well-developed national financial inclusion strategy (NFIS). Meanwhile, Senegal successfully increased access to formal financial services among adults to 42% in 2017, up from 15% in 2014. In January 2022, Senegal’s leadership validated its NFIS, a point of dialogue from the UNSGSA’s virtual discussions in 2021.
The UNSGSA will first travel to Côte d'Ivoire with meetings being conducted on 13-14 June. The UNSGSA is expected to meet with First Lady Dominique Ouattara, who is involved in microfinance for women. The Special Advocate also plans to meet with Prime Minister Patrick Achi, Vice President Tiémoko Meyliet Koné, Minister of Finance Adama Coulibaly, as well as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani. The Special Advocate is also set to participate in the 2022 Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan on 13 June. The UNSGSA will also engage with other ministries integral to financial inclusion, including the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and SME Promotion.
Once meetings in Côte d'Ivoire conclude, the Special Advocate will travel to Senegal for meetings on 15-16 June. It is anticipated that, among others, Queen Máxima will meet President Macky Sall, Minister of Finance and Budget Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo, and Minister of Economy, Plan, and Cooperation Amadou Hott. The Special Advocate will also meet with key ministries supporting the implementation of the NFIS, notably the Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Commerce and SMEs. Furthermore, Queen Máxima will speak with senior leadership at the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, BCEAO) to discuss regional financial sector reform items.
In both countries, dialogue will focus on priority areas such as SME finance, inclusive fintech, women’s digital financial inclusion, and agricultural finance. Discussion will also cover how inclusive finance can support COVID-19 recovery efforts as well as help people and small businesses build resilience to future shocks from economic and climate events—including the next potential pandemic.
The UNSGSA is also scheduled to meet with several local customers to hear firsthand how access to and usage of financial services and products help their businesses and financial livelihoods, as well as discuss what might be needed to better meet their needs in the future.
The West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region is a priority focus area for the UNSGSA. Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal are both member states of WAEMU, along with Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, and Togo.
The UNSGSA has engaged with numerous countries across the African continent to promote inclusive finance over the years, including visits to Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania.