AFD to Expose 332 million Africans to Formal Economy

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Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The French Development Agency (AFD) said it is committed to spending $ 6.95 million on financing digital financial inclusion in Africa, which is aimed at reducing existing gender gap in digital financial services.
The Development Agency has targeted 332 million more Africans of which 60 per cent are women, get access to the formal economy by year 2030.

A statement from the organisation said the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI), supported by the French Development Agency (AFD) and hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed to financing digital financial inclusion in Africa, with six grants totalling $ 6.95 million. The commitments aim to reduce Africa’s existing gender gap in digital financial services.

The statement said that the ADFI was established by the AfDB, and co-financed by AFD, the Ministry of the Economy and Finance of the Government of France, the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Luxembourg and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the purpose of ensuring that 332 million more Africans, of which 60 per cent are women, have access to the formal economy by 2030.

The statement said in February 2021, the AfDB Board of Directors approved a series of five grants from this blended finance vehicle, to the benefit of the following organisations: African Cybersecurity Resource Center (ACRC), EthSwitch Share Company, M-Kopa Kenya Limited, Pula Advisors Limited – Kenya, Sinitic Africa and the West African Monetary Agency.

Part of the financing include $ 2 million grant to ACRC, aiming at fighting cybercrime across the African continent while strengthening the resilience of digital financial ecosystems, as more and more transactions are made via mobile phones which raise new security concerns. Based in Dakar, with sub-regional offices in West and East- Africa, it will allow the creation of a shared platform to monitor cyber-attacks targeting finance service providers and individuals, the strengthening of their cyber-security via tailor made advisory services, and the fostering of cybersecurity training so as to meet the African demand for expertise.

The funding will target, among other beneficiaries, 20 to 25 million women over five years.
Another grant of $ 2.33 million to EthSwitch Share Company is dedicated to modernise the payment infrastructure of this initiative led by National Bank of Ethiopia. Focusing on providing simple, secure, effective and affordable digital payments infrastructure to the Ethiopian market the payment system will facilitate use of digital financial services fostering digital inclusion, such as social benefits, pensions, e-commerce, transport systems and utility bills. It will be implemented over a three-year period.

A $300,000 grant will allow Kenyan company M-Kopa, a financing platform offering underbanked customers access to products and services such as TV and internet, to conduct a research study to improve women’s access to digital financial services and financial literacy programs. The study will be carried out among 250 women and 250 men in Kisumu, Eldoret and Machakos counties to compare how men and women access digital financial services. The result will serve to design a pilot smartphone app providing small loans that are relevant to women running small businesses. If successful, the project could be scaled-up to the entire country.

A $1 million grant to Agri-fintech firm Pula Advisors Limited, Kenya, a company dedicated to provide agricultural insurance for small-scale farmers to manage climate risk, weather shocks and outbreaks of pests and diseases. The funding will enable Pula Advisors to develop digital micro-insurance products for women farmers in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia and ultimately, to increase the income of farms managed by women by up to 30 per cent.

A $1.024 million grant will finance Sinitic Africa to develop an Artificial Intelligence based customer complaints management system for the use of the national banks of Ghana and Rwanda and the Consumer Protection Commission of Zambia. The system will feature audio complaints, thus allowing access for customers who cannot read or write, as well as main local languages. It aims at improving database and action on customer complaints made to financial service providers, improve inclusion of marginalised groups and improve consumer-protection policies. The Sinitic system will be adapted in the following languages: Kinyarwanda, Swahili, French and English in Rwanda; English and Nyanja/Chewa in Zambia; and English and Twi in Ghana.

A final $320,000 grant will finance inclusion of gender by the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) in the main regulatory frameworks for digital financial services in ECOWAS. This will allow WAMA to analyse the gender gap in its strategies and operations. The project will cover all members of ECOWAS Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. It aims at raising women’s participation by 35% in digital financial market operations in the region which has a higher gender disparity than other parts of the continent.