H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), and Prime Minister Victoire Tomegah-Dogbe of Togo virtually discussed on Thursday how to work jointly on a range of financial inclusion issues, including policies to support accelerating digital financial services for vulnerable groups in the country, and as an important part of COVID-19 recovery.
The Special Advocate also had separate bilateral meetings with Minister of Economy and Finance Sani Yaya, Minister of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation Cina Lawson, and Minister in Charge of Financial Inclusion and the Informal Sector Organization Mazamesso Assih.
Togo has made gains in financial inclusion in recent years, due to mobile money. Individuals (age 15+) with access to an account rose from 10% to 45% between 2011 and 2017 (World Bank Global Findex). While mobile money has increased greatly in recent years, overall financial access and usage remains a challenge. A vast majority of Togolese continue to borrow and save informally. And, like in many nations, the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on Togo’s population both socially and economically.
The role of digital financial inclusion to support recovery from COVID-19 and the importance of enabling digital infrastructure topped the agenda during dialogue. The UNSGSA underscored the importance of quality digital financial services to help underserved segments such as women and rural dwellers manage economic shocks and build up resilience.
Further, Queen Máxima and the Prime Minister concurred that it is important for the country to rapidly work toward the finalization of a national financial inclusion strategy, make progress on regulatory projects to support the microfinance and banking sectors, and support the national fintech market to improve financial service delivery in Togo.
The talks offered the UNSGSA a chance to hear directly from Togolese leadership on how the country was able to successfully leverage emergency cash transfers through its Novissi program when responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Novissi, which reached nearly 820,000 people, is a fully digital cash transfer program that aims to provide instant cash support to informal workers whose incomes were disrupted or severely impacted by lockdowns, social distancing, value chain interruptions, or other measures and issues associated with the pandemic. The Special Advocate discussed plans to continue to innovate on the Novissi program, including for it to promote the usage of savings and digital payments across participating beneficiaries.
The Special Advocate and her partners offered to support Togo to promote financial inclusion going forward, specifically on the national financial inclusion strategy and priority projects around digital payments modernization.