While most adults in developed countries have an account at a bank or another formal financial institution, this is not the reality in many developing countries, including Senegal. A recent World Bank Group (WBG) Financial Capability Survey revealed that less than one in five Senegalese adults (17%) report owning an account at a formal institution, which includes banks, microfinance institutions, or e-money agents. While Senegal’s financial inclusion levels are similar to those in other lower-middle income economies, the country lags behind the average inclusion rate among Sub-Saharan African economies.
Like many African countries, Senegal has a young population in search of decent jobs and salaries. A report covering the last national census of the Senegalese population, published every ten years by l’Agence nationale de la statistique et de la démographie (ANSD) (National Statistics and Demographics Agency), reveals that the average age of the population is approximately 22 years and that one in every two Senegalese is under 18 years of age. Those under 15 years of age represent more than 42% of the population, clearly indicating the predominance of the youth demographic. However, this segment of the population is most affected by under-employment and unemployment with young people representing 60% of job seekers.
As I witnessed the official launch of the Saving One Million Lives Program for Results (SOML PforR), a government-led initiative supported by a $500 million World Bank International Development Association credit, I was overcome by several emotions, the foremost of which was hope.
For several decades now, Uganda has been generously hosting refugees and asylum seekers from the conflict-affected countries in its neighborhood, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. Since achieving its independence in 1962, the country has been hosting an average of approximately 161,000 refugees per year; and the numbers crossed 550,000 in August 2016. In three weeks since the latest fighting in South Sudan broke out on 8 July, nearly 37,491 people were forced to flee to Uganda, more than in the first six months of 2016, according to UNHCR.
Smallholder farmers, even those in structured value chains such as cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, are largely unable to access banks, microfinance institutions and other formal financial institutions. Providing meaningful financial services to these customers in an affordable and sustainable manner is a great challenge.