From Suleiman Idris, Lagos
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is collaborating with the International Financial Corporation (IFC) and Ant Financial (Ant) to promote digital financial inclusion in Africa, through investment and technical capacity building.
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, at the weekend led Ant Financial’s CEO, Eric Jing, and IFC’s VP and Treasurer, Jingdong Hua, to a meeting with President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Ms. Songwe said “Essentially, we were talking (with the president) about IT and the power of IT for financial, social and political inclusion.”
The Executive Secretary noted, “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.”
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 very small financial capacity to be involved in the society.”
Ant Financial – an affiliate of the Alibaba Group – runs one of the world’s largest online payment platforms, valued at $150 billion.
Ant CEO, Eric Jing, said the company serves over 650 million people on a daily basis. He stated that “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.”
Mr. Jing said he would like to replicate his company’s success in Africa so that financial inclusion can be enhanced.
Mr. Hua stated that IFC is supportive of Ethiopia’s laudable poverty reduction initiatives.
The delegations from IFC and Ant Financial also met with some senior staff of the ECA on Friday and expressed their willingness to collaborate with the Commission to foster inclusive growth on the continent. They were also briefed on what ECA does in line with IT and digital inclusion.
Ms. Songwe highlighted the importance of digital IDs, noting that “we have many displaced people and refugees on the continent without proper official identity. We know that without an identity you are not a complete citizen and life can be challenging.”
“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.