H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands has concluded a two-day country visit in Senegal conducted in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). Senegal was the second stop during the UNSGSA’s trip to West Africa, which included two days in Côte d'Ivoire as well.
While in Senegal, the UNSGSA met with high-level officials, international development partners, and private sector leaders to discuss how to best support efforts in the country to boost digital and financial inclusion.
The West Africa region is a priority for the UNSGSA’s efforts to promote and reinforce the importance of financial and digital inclusion, along with financial health, especially for vulnerable groups like the poor, women, smallholder farmers and small businesses. The trip built on a virtual visit with Senegal in February of last year.
With growth being driven by digital payments, the country has the potential to be at the forefront of financial inclusion in West Africa. According to the latest World Bank’s Global Findex (2017), Senegal has successfully increased access to formal financial services among adults to 42%, 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 held meetings with President Macky Sall, Minister of Finance and Budget Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo, and Minister of Economy, Plan, and Cooperation Amadou Hott. The Special Advocate also met with key ministries supporting the implementation of the NFIS, notably the Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications. Furthermore, Queen Máxima spoke with Acting Governor Mamadou Diop 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.
The meetings focused on finance for micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), inclusive fintech, financial inclusion for women, and agricultural finance. Discussion also highlighted 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 future potential pandemics.
UNSGSA Queen Máxima also met with local customers to hear firsthand how access to and usage of financial services and products help their businesses and financial livelihood. This also enabled the Special Advocate to discuss what might be needed to better meet their needs in the future.
For example, this included a meeting with Maryama Samassa Koma, who runs a workshop that makes clothing for African women living in Europe. She has used a tax collecting tool by SudPay, a digital financial services provider. Using these digital tools can also help businesses like hers by giving access to online marketplaces, as well as digital financial services.
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.
UNSGSA Queen Máxima 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.