To support the growth of digital finance services in West Africa, IFC announced a partnership with Orange Bank Africa (OBA) to increase access to finance for agents and merchants operating in the mobile money ecosystem.
Under the partnership, IFC will provide advisory services to Orange Bank Africa to help the mobile bank develop and test innovative and scalable digital lending products that meet the specific needs of mobile money agents as well as merchants accepting this type of payment.
These solutions will initially be deployed in Côte d’Ivoire, where Orange Bank Africa launched its commercial activities in July 2020.
In its pilot phase, the project will target 250 agents of the Orange Money Côte d’Ivoire network to increase their access to financing through Orange Money and allow them to have sufficient liquidity to meet their clients’ demands.
Agents are essential to the mobile money ecosystem in West Africa. But these entrepreneurs, most of whom are underbanked, face liquidity issues that sometimes force them to refuse transactions, hindering the development of their businesses and the sector as a whole.
“Through the partnership with IFC, our bank aims to strengthen its collaboration with the thousands of agents and merchants, in particular in rural areas, who play a key role in the mobile money ecosystem,” said Jean-Louis Menann-Kouamé, CEO of Orange Bank Africa. “More generally, this project is in line with our mission to improve access to financial services in the region by leveraging transformations in the digital sector.”
“Fostering financial inclusion is a top priority for IFC in Africa, and mobile money is an effective way to achieve this. We are delighted to partner with Orange Bank Africa to break new ground in digital lending,” said Manuel Reyes-Retana, IFC’s Regional Industry Director for the Financial Institutions Group in Africa. “We see this as the first step in a long-term partnership with Orange Bank Africa to help the bank develop viable banking services for those who need them the most.”
Although more than 80 percent of Ivorians have mobile money accounts today, the rapid growth of the sector in recent years has not yet translated into the use of formal savings, credit or insurance products. Increasing access to digital financial products for micro and small enterprises requires a redesign of the offering, including by developing alternative credit scoring techniques.
Established out of a partnership between the Orange Group and the banking and insurance group NSIA Banque, Orange Bank Africa is the first digital bank to be licensed as a commercial bank by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).