The digital finance sector in Benin, which is largely dominated by mobile network operators (MNOs), is expanding rapidly. There were over 400,000 active digital financial services (DFS) users in 2015, according to the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). This was accompanied by a noticeable improvement in awareness of mobile money services and an increase in the activity rate of clients.
The market is in the start-up phase, with potential for partnerships between MNOs and financial institutions, and notably the launch of new solutions by microfinance banks and institutions. Involving the Government in the implementation of digital finance projects therefore appears to be a good way of boosting momentum in DFS and achieving concrete results.
With this aim, UNCDF MM4P organized a two-day retreat at the Millenium Popo Beach Hotel in Agoué on 23 and 24 March 2017, for the Benin's national authorities. The meeting brought together representatives from the Ministries of the Economy and Finances, Digital Economy and Communication, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Planning and Development, and from the Digital Agency.
Over two days, participants immersed themselves in the basic concepts of digital finance, to acquire shared understanding around its key elements. The main strategies in the Government of Benin's digital action plan were introduced and clarifications provided on the roles of the various entities managing digital development. The participants were then given an overview of the theory of change at the heart of the UNCDF MM4P strategy, before hearing about the programme's achievements in Benin last year and the strategic plan for 2017.The workshop thus identified the Government’s priorities for digital finance (e-commerce, government payments and the agricultural value chain) and the stakeholders in the process. A roadmap was also introduced to monitor implementation of the strategic plan.
“These two days of work enabled us to have a shared vision of the nature of digital finance, to harmonize our initiatives and to better prioritize projects to boost momentum in the digital finance sector in Benin” stated Ms Sabine Mensah, Regional Technical Specialist for UNCDF MM4P in West Africa, in her closing remarks. “Our next steps to draw on the results of this meeting are to continue bilateral discussions and refine our work plan, which will be our compass for delivery in 2017” she concluded.
This first retreat, which was productive on all fronts, has demonstrated the clear willingness of the Government to promote DFS in Benin, supporting MM4P in its commitment to increase the use of DFS in the country by enabling access to more than 12 percent of the adult population by 2019. This objective will be achieved through the involvement of all actors, especially the national authorities.