Ethiopia in discussions to use digital solutions to improve financial inclusion

Ethiopia's new leadership is interested in using digital technologies to improve financial inclusion in the East Afrikan country. This comes after the United Nation's ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, Ant Financial’s CEO, Eric Jing, and the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) VP and Treasurer, Jingdong Hua, met with President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia on 3 August 2018. The discussions are reported to have revolved around promoting digital financial inclusion through investment and technical capacity building through investment and technical capacity building.

Furthermore, the representatives of the various organizations discussed with the president of Ethiopia about IT and the power of IT for financial, social and political inclusion.

“Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 say we should leave no one behind, and many people have been asking what happens to SMEs with the AfCFTA. So we are thinking about what platforms we can put together to ensure that not only big companies take advantage of the AFCTA but also small companies,” said Songwe.

Ms. Songwe underscored that “We have an opportunity to leapfrog technology for social, financial and political inclusion,” adding “today, we are bringing Ant Financial, which has the largest platform for financial inclusion and assists people with the very small financial capacity to be involved in the society.”

Digital financial inclusion in Ethiopia and the rest of Afrika

Beyond Ethiopia, the collaboration of the 3 organizations says it is looking to extend their financial inclusion mission to the rest of Afrika. Songwe further highlighted the importance of digital IDs, stating that, in general, Afrika has many displaced people and refugees without proper official identity.

"We know that without an identity you are not a complete citizen and life can be challenging," said Songwe.

Ant Financial is an affiliate of the Alibaba Group and it runs one of the world’s largest online payment platforms which is valued at $150 billion. Jing said that Ant Financial serves over 650 million people on a daily basis. It's not clear, if any, how many of those are in Afrika.

"We have expanded well beyond China and are recording tremendous success in our effort to bridge the gap between the reach and the poor in many other countries such as India, the Philippines and more,” said Jing.

It is interesting to observe that Ant Financial, and not an Afrikan financial services or FinTech company, is involved in this financial inclusion collaboration and initiative. The meeting also comes not long after reports of Safaricom looking to introduce M-Pesa in Ethiopia.

“So we are trying to see how we can go from getting identities to getting financial and social inclusion particularly for youth and women,” she said Hua.


Cover image credit: Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome.

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