In Côte d’Ivoire, many individuals and small businesses are financially excluded, especially women, and access to finance is challenging although mobile money is reduce the gender gap in access to financial services.
The 2017 Global Findex database says only 41 % of Côte d’Ivoire’s citizens had access to financial services. The study identified 37 Fintech initiatives, many of which are affected by a lack of funding, limited business and digital skills, and unclear operating environment.
In 2021, the World Bank conducted a study to assess the financial technology and digital financial services landscape in Côte d’Ivoire. The findings contributed to an acceleration of ongoing national and regional work in improving the enabling environment, and finance for Fintech companies. It also opened a dialogue between Fintech entities, the Ministry of Finance, and the Central Bank West of African States (BCEAO). Additionally, the study identified women-led Fintech companies as key players to drive access to digital financial services in Côte d’Ivoire.
The study assessed the constraints to Fintech development and suggested solutions, leading to a multi-stakeholder workshop, as recommended by the Bank which aimed to improve the enabling environment for Fintechs, and boost financial inclusion and facilitated the creation of a Roadmap for 2022-2024 to improve the Fintech sector in Cote d’Ivoire. The workshop also proposed actions to undertake in four key areas: the legal and regulatory framework, access to finance, capacity building, and the organization of the Fintech ecosystem.
The findings spurred several recommendations to work toward reducing both gender and urban-rural gaps in access to digital financial services. More specifically, the action plan laid out commitments to:
- increase women’s interests in technology-based financial products;
- integrate financial education modules in literacy curricula for women;
- sensitize rural populations in the use of Fintech services and products;
- support the creation of incubators in each district of the country.
The Government plans to implement the 2022-2024 Roadmap to Improve Fintech in Cote d’Ivoire. In this regard, it incorporated major recommendations from the World Bank study, including actions to improve alternative finance, promote women-led Fintechs, and gender-focused product designs. The Roadmap is expected to contribute to ongoing work related to the revision of the enabling environment for Fintech in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Efforts are being led by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), including the creation of an innovation lab at the national level. Additionally, the Roadmap includes measures to build the capacity of Fintech business owners and strengthen Fintech support organizations, such as incubators.
THE BANK AND OTHER COUNTRIES
The Bank team also shared the report with regulators in Madagascar and Nigeria and have found the study useful and requested the Bank’s support for a similar study using the same methodology. The Central Bank of Madagascar hosted its first Fintech workshop on June 17, 2022, thanks to the joint support of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
“As a female entrepreneur, I was pleased to have the opportunity to be part of the Regulatory Committee established by the Côte d’Ivoire Agency for Financial Inclusion (APIF) under this World Bank-supported initiative. The APIF is the first public institution to allow Fintechs in Côte d’Ivoire to have a voice. This initiative gathered key players of the financial services ecosystem, which jointly worked on a roadmap for Fintech development to accelerate innovation and financial access.” said Nadine Ebelle Kotto, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MQash, a Fintech specialized in providing innovative market solutions in the payment industry.
The Bank team worked with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to leverage funding for the Agency for Financial Inclusion. The AFD also played a key role in providing a technical review of the study.