Aymeric Villebrun, CEO, Société Générale Côte d’Ivoire: Interview

 Aymeric Villebrun, CEO, Société Générale Côte d’Ivoire

Interview: Aymeric Villebrun

What measures could be implemented to increase the level of banking penetration?

AYMERIC VILLEBRUN: There is a wide distribution of income and wealth in Côte d’Ivoire. A certain proportion of the country already has full access to banking services; however, there is another segment that could benefit more from these services, but the available programmes do not specifically meet their needs. At the same time, there is another group that has yet to gain full access to banking and other financial services.

One of the major steps that needs to be taken to boost banking penetration is to improve the banking network itself. Banks are primarily located in Abidjan, where wealthier customers are concentrated, with less penetration in other parts of the country. Once the banking footprint has been successfully extended, it will be important to develop financial products and services that meet the specific needs of customers.

However, it is essential to bear in mind the related point of operational costs, as a broader banking ecosystem – ranging from customer support services to issuing bank cards – engenders significant costs for banks. As such, it will be important to maintain a minimum unit value for each customer. Finding the right balance is critical to increasing banking penetration among the population and thereby supporting the country’s socio-economic development.

How can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) obtain credit and financing more easily?

VILLEBRUN: A variety of actions are needed to facilitate access to finance for SMEs, which account for a substantial share of the country’s economic output. In addition to difficulty obtaining credit, SMEs typically lack training and education on the legal and accounting tools that can help ensure that their activity is formalised. This means that a holistic approach, based on a combination of solutions, should be implemented to help these businesses to accelerate their growth.

Several measures have been taken over recent years by public authorities to address these issues. A dedicated structure for SMEs has been created to help them overcome barriers by providing advisory services and information on accounting standards, the legal framework and access to capital. These efforts are supported by the participation of chartered accountants, lawyers and investment fund managers.

This approach, based on a range of solutions, should enable SMEs to improve their performance and boost long-term development. Indeed, the development of SMEs is considered by the government to be a crucial component of the country’s wider economic growth, and public leaders are implementing a range of regulatory measures to support this segment. The banking sector is engaged in this pursuit as well, namely by reviewing the financing conditions for SMEs.

To what extent has the digital banking segment been developed in Côte d’Ivoire?

VILLEBRUN: Given the high level of mobile phone usage in the country, digital banking has significant growth potential. The use of electronic devices is highly integrated into the habits of many people, and uptake is progressing very quickly across virtually all segments of society. The digital maturity of our customers is quite similar to that of Morocco, for example.

Individuals who use electronic banking services rely on tools such as mobile phone applications to provide a secure, high-quality interface to conduct their operations. Mobile money applications, in particular, helped to fuel 20% growth in the number of financial account holders in the country between 2014 and 2018. As demonstrated by the more than 30% of the adult population who had a mobile money account in 2021, the market has achieved substantial reach and is continuing to grow rapidly. As such, Côte d’Ivoire has significant potential to make a sizeable leap in the field of mobile payment and digital banking services.

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2022

Banking chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2022

Cover of The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2022

The Report

This article is from the Banking chapter of The Report: Cote d'Ivoire 2022. Explore other chapters from this report.

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