Digital finance is a powerful lever for real change, African Development Bank Vice-President Pierre Guislain tells Resilience Forum

“Africa is a pioneer in mobile banking and digital finance is a powerful lever we can use to deliver real change for the people at the bottom of the pyramid,” African Development Bank Vice-President Pierre Guislain told participants at the second Africa Resilience Forum held last week in Abidjan.

Guislain chaired the session on digital finance and resilience for people at the bottom of the pyramid, hosted by the Bank’s Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization Complex. Panelists included Ivorian business executives – Gaël Briot, CEO of Advans; Olivier Akeya Nguessan, Head Distribution and Consumer Banking at Ecobank; and Iba Seck of Orange Money. Discussions focused on exploring linkages between digital technologies and development impact focusing on innovative solutions that can enhance the quality of life of the people in Africa.

“Africa has benefited hugely from the cellular revolution,” Guislain said, noting that about half the world’s mobile money providers operate in Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 80% of the people have access to mobile phones.

“Africa is a pioneer in the FinTech space and I firmly believe that there is huge potential that can be unlocked by leveraging innovative digital tools for inclusive growth in emerging economies. The digital revolution holds the same potential today as the cellular revolution 20 years ago. We need to unlock it,” Guislain said.

The African Development Bank’s objective is to provide universal financial services to 90% of African adults by 2025. A number of transformative digital payment projects have been launched to support this objective. Agri Porte Monnaie Electronique (E-wallets), a joint project of Togo’s Agriculture and Digital Economy ministries is one such initiative. The project, launched in 2016, provides subsidies to farmers through electronic wallets. To date, 76,522 out of 150,000 small-scale farmers have been identified and registered for the project.

Unique identification was flagged as one of the major challenges undermining efforts made by digital finance players to accelerate financial inclusion of the most vulnerable populations. Guislain urged actors to reflect and learn from best practices, especially Aadhaar, a unique authentication and identification platform in India. Aadhaar is currently the world’s largest biometric ID system, with over 1.2 billion enrolled members.

The second edition of the Africa Resilience Forum was organized by the African Development Bank’s Transition Support Department on the theme, “Building Resilience at the Bottom of the Pyramid”. The two-day event brought together over 400 participants.

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