Queen Máxima visits Ethiopia to promote access to financial services

Her Majesty Queen Máxima is visiting the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from the evening of Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 May in her role as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). In late 2017 Ethiopia launched a national strategy aimed at improving access to financial services for its citizens.

Queen Máxima is visiting Ethiopia at the invitation of the country’s government. Around 65% of the Ethiopian adult population do not yet have access to financial services such as a bank or savings account, insurance, a loan or digital payment methods (Global Findex 2017). This makes it difficult for them to invest in their future and protect themselves against unforeseen financial setbacks. Women and those living in remote rural areas have the least access to these services. The Ethiopian government is currently working on policy to stimulate the economy. Inclusive finance is one of the ways this can be achieved. Queen Máxima will discuss this topic with government representatives, UN development partners and the private sector. Focus areas include improving digital applications relating to financial services, better mobile network connections and the development of a national ID card.

Queen Máxima will begin her visit at the local UN office where she will speak with development partners and private sector representatives. She will also meet with Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance, Dr Getahun Mekuria, Minister of Innovation and Technology, and Dr Yinager Dessie, Governor of the National Bank of Ethiopia. Meetings are also scheduled with the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, and Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed.

During her trip Queen Máxima will also undertake two field visits. First she will meet with farmers to discuss a new business model that has made some of them shareholders in the Habesha beer brewery. The brewery also offers them partial prefinancing for barley production in the form of seed, fertiliser and agricultural advice. The farmers pay this back with a portion of their harvest and the brewery guarantees that it will purchase the rest. This model helps boost yields and farmers’ incomes.

The second field visit will focus on the various digital financial ‘Hello’ services provided by the company Belcash. In Ethiopia 12% of payments are made digitally. People often have to wait in lengthy queues to pay bills or withdraw cash. Thanks to the HelloCash mobile money platform, customers are able to visit an agent to deposit money into an account and make digital payments. HelloSolar offers products that include a portable power supply with solar panels. Customers can pay for the energy they use by mobile phone. Around 57% of Ethiopians have no mains electricity, which limits their development prospects.

Queen Máxima also visited Ethiopia in December 2013 on behalf on the UN. She was accompanied by representatives of the UN food and agriculture bodies FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (World Food Programme). See Government Information Service press releases 278 and 320 from 2013. She has since maintained frequent contact regarding the progress on inclusive finance. At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos she met with Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, and at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC she spoke with central bank governor Dr Yinager Dessie and finance minister Ahmed Shide.

Since 2009 Queen Máxima has been the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). In this role she advises the Secretary-General and works worldwide to promote safe and affordable access to financial services for all, including low-income groups and SMEs. Since 2011 she has been honorary patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI).