Advancing Digital Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion in Côte d’Ivoire

Challenge

In Côte d’Ivoire, many individuals and small businesses are financially excluded and access to finance can be difficult. Women are particularly disadvantaged, although mobile money has helped close the gender gap in access to financial services. According to the 2017 Global Findex database, which tracks financial inclusion and access to finance, only 41% of Ivorian 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 an unclear operating environment. Three major challenges prevent Côte d’Ivoire from fully reaping the benefits of a digital economy through the full participation of its citizens and businesses: (i) limited digital inclusion in rural areas; (ii) poor policy and regulation; and (iii) gaps in private sector development financing.

Approach

Based on documentary research, questionnaires and interviews, the study assessed the constraints to the development of Fintech. He suggested ways to improve digital financial inclusion for poor households and micro-entrepreneurs, including women. He specifically focused on the legal and policy framework, financial and telecommunications infrastructure, and business environment for Fintech startups. This analytical work gave rise to a multi-stakeholder workshop, as recommended by the Bank. The workshop aimed to improve the enabling environment for Fintechs, as well as boost financial inclusion. The event, organized on October 21 and 22, 2021, enabled the creation of a roadmap for 2022-2024 to improve the Fintech sector in Côte d’Ivoire. The workshop also proposed actions to be undertaken in four key areas: the legal and regulatory framework, access to financing, capacity building and the organization of the Fintech ecosystem.

Results

The study revealed the potential for developing a new generation of financial service providers. He also identified the capacity building needs of Fintech companies. Over time, efforts for a more enabling environment should promote private sector-led growth and human capital development in Côte d’Ivoire. Based on the results of the study, the Agency for Financial Inclusion (APIF) has taken concrete measures in the form of stakeholder workshops, contributions to future regulations, as well as the organization of forums to help Fintech companies access markets and finance by developing marketing ideas and building business skills.

The study identified a pronounced gender gap in the Fintech sector, finding that women run only 2 of the 37 Fintech companies operating in Côte d’Ivoire. He also found that most companies operate in urban areas, leaving rural parts of the country without access. The findings led to several recommendations aimed at reducing gender and urban-rural gaps in access to digital financial services. Specifically, the action plan sets out commitments to: (i) increase women’s interest in technology-enabled financial products; (ii) integrating financial education modules into women’s literacy programs; (iii) sensitize rural populations to the use of Fintech services and products; and (iv) support the creation of incubators in each district of the country.

The results of these actions are expected to help the country achieve the financial inclusion goals set out in the recently approved project to “Improve Government Effectiveness for Improved Public Services” for Côte d’Ivoire. Ivory.

Bank Group Contribution

The study was conducted as part of the Côte d’Ivoire Employment and Economic Transformation Project which was approved in June 2021.

The partners

The Bank team worked with the French Development Agency (AFD) to raise funds for the Agency for Financial Inclusion. AFD also played a key role in providing a technical review of the study.

Look forward

Going forward, the government plans to implement 2022-2024 roadmap to improve Fintech in Côte d’Ivoire. In this regard, it incorporated key recommendations from the World Bank study, including actions to improve alternative finance, promote female-led fintechs, as well as gender-focused product designs. The roadmap is expected to contribute to ongoing work related to reviewing the enabling environment for fintech in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). Efforts are being led by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), including the creation of an innovation laboratory 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 team also shared the report with regulators in Madagascar and Nigeria. Both countries found the study useful and requested the Bank’s support for a similar study using the same methodology. The Central Bank of Madagascar will host its first Fintech workshop on June 17, 2022, thanks to the joint support of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Beneficiary story/quote

As a female entrepreneur, I was delighted to have the opportunity to be part of the Regulatory Committee set up by the Côte d’Ivoire Agency for Financial Inclusion (APIF) as part of this initiative supported by the World Bank. APIF is the first public institution to allow Fintechs in Côte d’Ivoire to be heard. This initiative brought together key players in the financial services ecosystem, who jointly worked on a roadmap for the development of Fintech in order to accelerate innovation and financial access.” said Nadine Ebelle Kotto, CEO of MQash. (MQash is a Fintech specialized in providing innovative market solutions in the payment industry).

About Eleanor Blackburn

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