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INSIGHTS: Harmonising gender mainstreaming in digital financial services policies and regulations across ECOWAS

Khalila A. A. Salim, Digital Financial Services Specialist, Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI)
21 Dec 2023

Africa has a gender-inclusion gap of 12% as compared to the global average of 4%, according to the 2021 Global Findex Report.

This gender gap is wider in West Africa, with a Gender Disparity Index of 0.825 compared to the African average of 0.871.

Gender inequality in West Africa is driven by a combination of factors such as unequal opportunities in education and economic development. Women form the bulk of the informal trade sector and it is estimated that 70% of the female population is in vulnerable employment with limited or no access to digital financial services.

Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI) is supporting the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) to facilitate gender mainstreaming in digital financial services policies and regulations across the Economic Communities of the West African States (ECOWAS) with the common goal to contribute to bridging the gender gap in financial inclusion in West Africa.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the project was officially launched in a workshop in March 2023 in Abuja, Nigeria, officiated by Mrs Aishah Ahmad, Deputy Governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria, representing the Committee of Governors from the ECOWAS central banks. See here for more information on the workshop.

WAMA workshop

This project is gender transformational as it addresses the barriers to access for women by driving gender centric digital financial services policies and regulations. Barriers that bar women from accessing DFS include lack of identity, design of gender agnostic solutions, lack of gender disaggregated data that can track how men and women use services and lack of incentives to drive gender centric payment solutions.

Adopting a harmonised approach, not only across the 15 ECOWAS countries, but also within the different organs within ECOWAS and the partners, this project is built on the roles and responsibilities of critical change agents to endorse, catalyse, motivate and facilitate impactful and lasting change:

  1. Endorsement from the Committee of Governors, comprising Governors of all ECOWAS Central Banks – The Committee of Governors gave a ‘no objection’ to the project that paved way for launch and implementation. WAMA is supervised by the Committee of Governors and shares regular progress updates via the established statutory meetings. This project is aligned with the ECOWAS gender policy i.e.  ECOWAS has incorporated gender equality in Article 63, Women and Development, of its revised treaty, targeting the “enhancement of the economic, social, and cultural conditions of women.” This was followed by the establishment of the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC) in 2003.
  1. Ownership from WAMA Senior Management Team and ECOWAS – The project Steering Committee is chaired by the Director General of WAMA, Momodou Bamba Saho, and comprises representation from WAMA, ADFI, ECOWAS, Central Bank of Nigeria and Ministry of Finance, Senegal. WAMA is working closely with ECOWAS leadership and also interfacing with the gender team.

WAMA is keen to promote gender inclusion given West Africa overall has one of the largest gender disparities in the continent as highlighted in the introductory part of the article. WAMA also intends to leverage its mandate as an autonomous and specialised agency of ECOWAS to drive gender inclusion in digital financial services and future digital payments initiatives in the region.

  1. Partnership with ADFI and teams across the African Development Bank - The Governing Council of ADFI supported the award of a grant to WAMA to undertake the project, but also, together with the gender team at the African Development Bank, the ADFI Coordination Team have provided invaluable technical input at the different stages of the project, such as the design of the research methodology, inclusion of the gender lens in the research tools and the design of the metrics to measure the project progress.
  1. Advocacy and facilitation from the Gender Champions Network – These comprise senior personnel drawn from the ECOWAS central banks courtesy of the support by the Committee of Governors, WAMA and the respective Central Bank teams and leaders. This network has been instrumental in championing in-country advocacy and supporting implementation works.

This harmonised approach to change management was instrumental in the onboarding of strategic stakeholders in ECOWAS, the execution of the gender gap analysis of the existing policies and regulations, and the identification of and work with key informants to gain insights on digital financial services policy revisions amongst other. WAMA onboarded an external consulting firm to facilitate the gender gap analysis, working with WAMA and gender champions network to execute the research across 8 ECOWAS countries.

In subsequent series under this project, we will delve into the importance of the Gender Champions network and the coordination of the research work as a runner up to the detailed insights from the research and the actual policy change negotiation processes.

For more information on the project: Promoting gender-sensitive digital financial services, policies and regulations across ECOWAS

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