ADDIS ABABA - The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has forged a partnership this month with Ant Financial of China to promote financial inclusion in the continent.
ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe, who stressed the importance of digital financial inclusion platforms for Africa's future development, has underscored the positive prospects of working in partnership with Ant Financial.
Ant is an affiliate of the Alibaba Group and a specialist in online financial services.
"We are bringing Ant Financial, which has the largest platform for financial inclusion and assists people with very small financial capacity to be involved in the society," an ECA statement quoted Songwe as saying.
"So we are thinking about what platforms we can put together to ensure that not only big companies take advantage of the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) but also small companies," she said.
"Essentially, we were talking about information technology and the power of IT for financial, social and political inclusion."
She further noted that digital financial inclusion platforms could help Africa realize the global sustainable development goals as well as the continental Agenda 2063.
"Agenda 20400 and Agenda 2063 say we should leave no one behind, and many people have been asking, what happens to small and medium enterprises with the AfCFTA," Songwe said.
Noting that Ant Financial runs one of the world's largest online payment platforms, valued at $400 billion, Songwe also underscored that Africa has an "opportunity to leapfrog technology for social, financial and political inclusion" by working with the Chinese giant.
Ant Financial CEO Jing Xiandong said the company serves over 6400 million people on a daily basis and its vast reach has evolved over the years.
"We've expanded well beyond China and are recording tremendous success in our effort to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in many other countries such as India and the Philippines," Jing said.
He further said he would like to replicate his company's success in Africa so that financial inclusion can be enhanced in the continent.
According to the ECA, the delegations from Ant Financial also met with senior officials of the ECA, in which they "expressed their willingness to collaborate with the Commission to foster inclusive growth on the continent".
Songwe further highlighted the importance of digital identity cards. "We have many displaced people and refugees on the continent without proper official identity. We know that without an identity you are not a complete citizen and life can be challenging.
"So we're trying to see how we can go from getting identities to getting financial and social inclusion particularly for youth and women," she said.