Regulatory Framework for Digital Financial Services in Côte d’Ivoire – A Diagnostic Study

Regulation plays a critical role in the development and spread of digital financial services (DFS). This paper offers an analysis of the regulatory framework for DFS in Côte d’Ivoire, including its coverage, its conducive features, and its gaps and obstacles. Côte d’Ivoire is a regional leader in DFS, particularly in the use of mobile money. It is a lower-middle-income country that has nearly 8 percent annual GDP growth. It has a high rate of mobile phone penetration (estimated at 113 percent), and a more modest rate of formal financial inclusion (46 percent of adults, including bank, microfinance, postal, and mobile money accounts). Mobile network operators (MNOs) have been the lead players thus far. They account for three of the five mobile money deployments and the majority of agents. MNOs have mainly partnered with banks that issue e-money. However, in the wake of recent regulatory changes, MNOs are moving to establish e-money subsidiaries. Over-the-counter (OTC) services providers, who provide affordable transfer services to clients, including those without digital accounts, are also significant. Any discussion of legal or policy matters in Côte d’Ivoire must pay close attention to the rules laid down by the West African regional institutions of which that country is a member. In this paper, we are principally concerned with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), a currency union and evolving free trade zone. The WAEMU’s central bank, BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), exercises exclusive authority over the money supply and is the primary authority (with the participation of the regional Banking Commission) for the regulation and supervision of financial institutions (FIs), payment systems, and digital finance.

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