On Wednesday 11th June, the African Development Bank and its partners  launched the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI), in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, which is designed to aid safety and expansion of digital financial transactions in Africa.

The Fund, launched at the Bank’s Annual Meeting is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the Government of Luxembourg, as initial contributors.

 The Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Pierre Guislain said the goal is to ensure that at least 320 million more Africans, of which nearly 60% are women, have access to digital financial services.

The fund will deploy $100 million in grants and $300 million in the form of debt from the Bank’s ordinary capital resources by 2030, to scale up electronic financial services for low-income communities. 

African Development Bank President, Akinwunmi Adesina said, “We believe that with the right investments in innovation and smart digital growth, the obstacles to achieving financial inclusion and greater economic opportunity for all will be overcome.” 

The interventions is said to be aligned to four pillars; infrastructure, including digital and interoperable payment systems; this would help to close the transaction gender gap between men and women.

Africa saw double-digit growth in mobile phone ownership in the first half of this decade, triggering a surge in innovative digital tools and services across the continent. Yet, the benefits are not shared equally. It is estimated that only 43% of adults across Africa have a banking account.

Director of the Financial Services for the Poor Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Michael Wiegand said,“Financial inclusion, achieved through digital financial service models, is simultaneously a powerful anti-poverty strategy and a catalyst of sustainable economic development for national and regional economies.”   

ADFI’s opening project, which serves as a pilot for the facility, is an $11.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Bank and the Central Bank of West African States.

The grant will create an interoperable digital payment system that will allow consumers to send and receive money between mobile wallets, and from these wallets to other digital and bank accounts.

A three-member panel including Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Pierre Guislain discussed modalities, expected challenges and policy requirements that must be in place to enable the fund achieve.