For over 25 years working across Africa, we’ve seen that women are disproportionally excluded from essential services, despite their potential as catalysts for socio-economic development.
While they are not a homogenous group, their needs are systematically overlooked – and governments can change that. We are reminded every day that policies and regulations are critical to ensure financial inclusion, especially in a dynamic globalized economy.
A year ago, in July 2019, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) published a groundbreaking report outlining how the seven leading global economies (G7) can support the financial inclusion of women in Africa. It describes how governments, central banks, and financial institutions can build inclusive, sustainable, and responsible digital financial systems to ensure financial inclusion for 400 million people, nearly 60% of whom are women. The report, A G7 Partnership for Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion in Africa offers recommendations in three areas: infrastructure, regulation, and planning.
Who could have imagined that, exactly a year later, a pandemic would accelerate the adoption of digital financial services (DFS) to fight the contagious virus. While this trend is encouraging, it also brought to the fore longstanding questions of inequalities, and we must remain vigilant to avoid creating a new digital divide.
High levels of collaboration, innovation, and ambition are crucial to advance this agenda. We are partnering with the BMGF and the French Ministry of Finance to support governments seeking to promote safe, competitive, and inclusive DFS. Through the UNCDF programme Africa Policy Accelerator, we provide policymakers and regulators in 18 countries the technical inputs and assistance to implement digital financial regulations that address the needs of low-income communities.
Boosting women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment is an integral part of that mandate. UNCDF has been chosen as one of the organizations to play a leadership role in the Generation Equality Forum, a civil society–centred, multi-stakeholder global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France. We are ready to co-lead the Economic Justice and Rights Action Coalition and will join the rallying point on 7 July 2020 to symbolically mark the initial opening date of the Forum in Paris, which was meant to gather gender equality actors from around the world, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
As the world grapples with unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, we need to sustain efforts to expand digital financial inclusion to women across the African continent. When women – especially those living in poor and marginalized communities in Africa – can access financial services, it opens up opportunities and builds resilience. They can secure payments for healthcare and education, store savings safely, borrow to start or develop small businesses or insure and protect their families against life’s hazards such as medical emergencies and natural disasters. An increasing number of African governments consider gender-inclusive finance to be a high priority. It is time to fix the financial inclusion gender gap.
About our vision for Women as Builders of the Digital Economy