A representative of Niger Republic at the ongoing 54th Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Mr. Aichatou Kane, has noted that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is in the “fast lane’’ of integration and could have its own currency in 2020.

According to him, ECOWAS institutions have been more involved in the region’s single currency creation programme and harmonisation of monetary policy framework to encourage regional integration and eliminate diverse tariff barriers.

His declaration came as the AfDB and its partners inaugurated the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion (ADFI) Facility, designed to aid safety and expansion of digital financial transactions in Africa.

The Fund is being supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Agence Francaise (AFD) and the Government of Luxembourg as initial contributors.

The goal of the Fund is to ensure that at least 320 million more Africans, of which nearly 60 per cent are women have access to digital financial services.

When fully operational the Fund will deploy about  $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.

”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,’’ Akinwumi Adesina, president of AfDB said.

According to Adesina, the intervention will be aligned to four pillars; infrastructure, including digital interoperable payment systems, digital products and innovation, policy and regulatory reform and harmonisation, and capacity building.

Mr Michael Wiegand, Director Financial Services for the Poor Programme, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation represented his organisation at the occasion.

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He said “financial inclusion achieved through digital financial service models was a powerful anti-poverty strategy and catalyst of sustainable

Economic development for national and regional economies.’’

In his remarks, Mr Sebastien Minot, AFD’s Deputy Head for Africa said “with ADFI, we are convinced that our joint efforts can contribute efficiently to bring down the barriers that still undermine the full potential of digital finance in Africa.

”It will enhance the delivery of quality and responsible digital financial services to the underserved, a cornerstone to inclusive and sustainable financial systems.’’

Georges Heine, Alternate Governor for AfDB from Luxembourg Ministry of Finance, said poverty reduction and social cohesion go hand-in-hand with economic empowerment and financial inclusion.

According to him, ADFI will provide an excellent platform for Luxembourg to combine its focus on economic inclusion with its Fintech orientation for the benefit of Africa’s poor.

A three-member panel including AfDB’’s Vice President Pierre Guislain, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation discussed modalities, expected challenges and policy requirements that must be in place to enable the Fund achieve its goals.

Meanwhile, Dr Hanan Morsy, AfDB’s Director of Research, said the Central Africa stood to benefit the most from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).