H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands will participate in a virtual country visit with Côte d'Ivoire in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) on 17 June 2021.
The Special Advocate, along with her partners, will hold dialogue with key authorities and stakeholders to hear firsthand about their recent inclusive finance efforts, as well as offer to support policy and infrastructure reforms to deepen digital financial inclusion—including to aid COVID-19 recovery. Discussions will highlight promoting usage of digital financial services among underserved groups, including women, smallholder farmers, and micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), all of which are a focus of the UNSGSA. Encouraging the development of fintech and responsible digital payments are expected to be points of emphasis, as well.
Queen Máxima is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Patrick Achi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Finance Minister Adama Coulibaly, Minister of Digital Economy, Telecommunications, and Innovation Roger Felix Adom, and Minister of Commerce and Industry Souleymane Diarrassouba. The Special Advocate will also participate in a pair of virtual client visits to hear how financial technology and digitization has helped respond to customers’ needs, as well as supported microenterprise growth and resilience.
According to the most recent 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. This increase in financial inclusion has been driven by mobile money and growth in the microfinance sector. Still, financial inclusion appears more limited in rural areas and among the underserved groups. For example, according to the Findex, there is a gender gap of 11 percentage points, a one-point increase from 2014. Of the eight million unbanked individuals in Cote d’Ivoire, 52% are women.
The importance of financial inclusion, notably digital, to support financial health and resilience in Côte d'Ivoire has been heightened due to the COVID-19 crisis. Recent data (2020) highlighted by the World Bank revealed that approximately 37% of businesses in the country had to close temporarily due to restriction measures, with microenterprises disproportionately affected. Additionally, 71% of household incomes decreased and were unable to meet basic living expenses.
Since the start of the pandemic, the UNSGSA has increased her advocacy efforts in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region. Côte d'Ivoire is a member state of WAEMU, along with Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO) serves the WAEMU region.
The Special Advocate held a productive virtual bilateral meeting with BCEAO Governor Tiémoko Meyliet Koné in December 2020. Furthermore, she conducted a virtual country visit to Senegal in January 2021, and more recently held virtual bilateral meetings with Togolese authorities in April 2021.
Beyond the WAEMU region, financial inclusion across the African continent has been an important focus for the UNSGSA both recently and over the years.
In March 2021, Queen Máxima held a virtual meeting with South African President and former Chairperson of the African Union Cyril Ramaphosa to explore ways to deepen cooperation to advance women’s digital and financial inclusion, and women’s economic empowerment, throughout the African continent.
In parallel with the 75th United Nations General Assembly, Queen Máxima delivered a speech at a G7 Partnership virtual event in September 2020 on this subject to support COVID-19 resilience and recovery strategies.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the Special Advocate 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.