H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), held a virtual bilateral meeting with La Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) Governor Tiémoko Meyliet Koné on 9 September 2021.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the UNSGSA to build on her 2021 virtual country visits with Côte d’Ivoire (June), Togo (April) and Senegal (January), while continuing to collaborate with Governor Koné to help advance financial inclusion throughout the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Issues around inclusive fintech, payments interoperability and regulatory modernization were of particular focus.
The BCEAO, also known as the Central Bank of West African States, is headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, and serves the eight west African countries which comprise the WAEMU. These include Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. In the WAEMU, 60% of adults (age 15+) have access to formal financial services. This is up from 37% in 2014 and 26% in 2011 (Rapport annuel sur la situation de l'inclusion financière dans l'UEMOA, BCEAO, 2019).
The Special Advocate and Governor Koné also recently spoke during a virtual high-level meeting which took place in December 2020. Dialogue centered on the implementation of BCEAO’s financial inclusion strategy, expanding digital financial services to vulnerable segments, and ongoing projects to promote payments interoperability and the fintech sector. Additionally, the UNSGSA highlighted the importance of having in place key public goods to support digital financial services as part of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. This is especially true for traditionally underserved groups, such as the poor, women, smallholder farmers, and micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Financial inclusion across Africa is an important focus for the UNSGSA. In March, the Special Advocate held a virtual meeting with South African President and former Chairperson of the African Union Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss how to cooperate to advance women’s digital and financial inclusion, as well as women’s economic empowerment, across the continent.
Further, during the 75th United Nations General Assembly in September 2020, Queen Máxima spoke at a G7 Partnership virtual event on this subject to support COVID-19 resilience and recovery strategies.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Special Advocate engaged with numerous African countries to promote inclusive finance over the years, including visits to Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.