OREANDA-NEWS. September 16, 2016. The Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will co-host a conference on September 20, 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, to examine the prospects and policy options for promoting financial inclusion in West Africa.

While access to financial services is crucial for pro-poor growth, capital accumulation, and productivity growth, only an average of 34 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s adult population has access to those services – less than 18 percent in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region, whose countries will be represented at the conference. Access to financial services has increased in most WAEMU countries but remains lower than in some other regions.

The Dakar conference will aim at discussing the impact of financial inclusion on growth and poverty reduction. It will bring together policy makers; international experts; bankers and central bankers; and representatives from the civil society and the private sector. The conference will specifically explore avenues to improve financial inclusion in West Africa. Participants will focus on the policy challenges facing the countries of the WAEMU as they seek to increasing access to financial services for all while also managing related policy challenges and supervisory risks.

IMF Deputy Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa will attend the conference and give a keynote address. He also will meet with Senegalese authorities. Ahead of his visit to Senegal, Mr. Furusawa will travel to Conakry, Guinea for meetings with the authorities.

“We are very much looking forward to listening to all our partners in the WAEMU and other experts as we discuss the challenges and opportunities of regional financial inclusion,” said Mr. Furusawa. “The IMF has had a constructive dialogue with the BCEAO on the topic, and the Dakar conference allows us to broaden this dialogue with government officials and other stakeholders. This is a concrete way for the Fund to help improve the quality of life of West African citizens.”

Discussions are expected to focus on identifying barriers to financial services for households and small and medium size enterprises; the challenge of retail banking; the role of microfinance institutions and mobile banking; and the management of supervisory risks stemming from non-traditional financial actors. The conference also will feature speakers from East Africa, where efforts to spur financial inclusion have shown considerable results.