H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands today wrapped up a two-day country visit in Côte d'Ivoire where she held a series of meetings with high-level officials, along with various international development partners and private sector leaders to reinforce the importance of digital and financial inclusion. Queen Máxima conducted the visit in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA).
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 builds on a virtual visit with Côte d'Ivoire in 2021.
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), 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).
The UNSGSA met with First Lady Dominique Ouattara, who is involved in microfinance for women, as well as had meetings with Prime Minister Patrick Achi, Vice President Tiémoko Meyliet Koné, and Minister of Finance Adama Coulibaly. Additionally, she participated in a panel on how fintech can boost financial inclusion in Africa at the 2022 Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan. Other panelists included International Finance Corporation (IFC) Managing Director Makhtar Diop, Bank of Kigali CEO Jane Karusisi, Equity CEO Bank James Mwangi, Mastercard Vice Chairman and President for Strategic Growth Michael Froman, and it was moderated by CNN International Correspondent Larry Madowo.
Furthermore, Queen Máxima met with ministries integral to financial inclusion, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and SME Promotion.
Dialogue focused on finance for micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), inclusive fintech, women’s financial inclusion, and agricultural finance. Discussion also covered 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.
UNSGSA Queen Máxima also had the opportunity to meet with local customers to hear firsthand how access to and usage of financial services and products help their businesses and financial livelihoods, as well as to discuss what might be needed to better meet their needs in the future.
This included a client visit to learn about how Wi-Agri’s digital platform links cashew farmers with buyers and financing, which among other benefits, includes providing a guaranteed income for the farmers. Additionally, the UNSGSA also met with representatives of the international nonprofit organization CARE, which has been working in Côte d’Ivoire to members of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) connect with formal financial institutions and provide members with financial education and training.
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.
The Special Advocate’s next and final stop on her visit to West Africa will be Senegal on 15-16 June.