H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands will participate in virtual meetings with select leaders from Togo in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) on 22 April 2021. The UNSGSA plans to engage in discussions on efforts to promote digital financial inclusion, particularly as a component of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in Togo.
The Special Advocate is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Victoire Tomegah-Dogbé, 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.
Topics to be covered include support to Togo’s national financial inclusion strategy (NFIS), promoting financial access to underserved groups such as women or those residing in rural areas, and emerging issues around financial technology and digital transformation.
Togo has seen strong recent gains in financial inclusion in recent years, propelled largely by mobile money. The percentage of individuals (age 15+) with access to an account rose from 10% to 45% between 2011 and 2017, according to the World Bank’s 2017 Global Findex. Additionally, Togo has some of the highest activity rates in the WAEMU region with the introduction of second generation digital financial services (DFS) products such as mobile savings (UNCDF, 2018).
More recently, Togo has gained international recognition for its Novissi emergency cash transfer program to support COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. The program delivered financial support to about 820,000 people via e-wallets and operated fully digitally from onboarding, criteria screening, identity verification, and payment via mobile money, according to the Togolese Ministry of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of financial services to help vulnerable communities manage shocks, secure adequate nutrition, and help small businesses stay afloat. Countries with advanced digital financial services ecosystems have been able to more effectively respond.
Since the start of the pandemic, the UNSGSA has heightened her advocacy efforts in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region. The Special Advocate held a productive virtual bilateral meeting with Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO) Governor Tiémoko Meyliet Koné in December 2020. Furthermore, she conducted a virtual country visit to fellow WAEMU member state Senegal in January 2021.
Togo is a member state of the WAEMU region, along with Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, and Senegal. The BCEAO serves the WAEMU region.
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.