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INSIGHTS: Promoting gender-sensitive digital financial services, policies and regulations across ECOWAS


Given the importance of women in the socio-economic development of the ECOWAS, it is critical to safeguard the participation of half the population of our region through the implementation of gender-focused policies and regulations that bridge the gender gap and create more equitable economic and social welfare opportunities. Concerted effort is urgently needed from governments and other stakeholders for the establishment of regulations and targeted policies that promote a more even access to the benefits of financial intermediation for women. This should have positive impacts on economic growth, financial stability and income distribution, thereby contributing to strengthening the foundations of the ECOWAS monetary integration process.”

Momodou Sabo, Director General, West Africa Monetary Agency (WAMA)

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, rooted in discriminatory gender norms and practices. 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.

The West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) is working to contribute to closing the gender gap in digital financial services through the development of a harmonised gender-responsive digital financial inclusion framework for use by the digital financial inclusion stakeholders across the ECOWAS countries.

Gender Champions have been identified within Central Banks across ECOWAS to support advocacy and capacity building across the region to further gender inclusion in access and use of digital financial services. In March 2023, the Gender Champions convened in Abuja, Nigeria for the first face-to-face workshop to progress the design of the framework.

“This project could not have come at a more opportune time in the socio-economic development of the ECOWAS region as most economies are firmly on the path to enhancing financial inclusion through a number of means, including digital financial services. Closing the gender gap and enhancing women’s participation in economic development is essential not only for building a just society, but also a pre-requisite for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among people on a sustainable basis.”

Mrs Massandjé Toure-Litse, Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS)

“It is important to recognise the gender gap in financial inclusion and, instead of initiating general strategies to uplift financial inclusion, we must look at the most excluded segments. Across Africa, it is usually youth, women and those in the rural areas.”

Mrs Aishah Ahmad – Deputy Governor – Central Bank of Nigeria

"The Gender Champions workshop marks a significant milestone in progress towards the development of sustainable gender-sensitive digital financial services, policies and regulations across the ECOWAS region. The contribution of all stakeholders is crucial to building advocacy among all stakeholders within the member states, and ensuring long-lasting impact on bridging the gender gap in financial inclusion."
Sheila Okiro, ADFI Coordinator


For more information on the project, see here

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