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IMF-World Bank Group meeting "Harnessing Technology for Inclusive Growth" ©EIB

EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle has been calling for the 'democratisation of innovation' in a high-level panel at the World Bank annual meetings in Bali to discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by technology for jobs and livelihoods – particularly in Africa.

He was speaking alongside Melinda Gates from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance of Indonesia, Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank, Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Group, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Special Advisor to the Executive Director of Smart Africa.

EIB Vice-President Fayolle highlighted the important role of digitalisation in development and its positive contribution to realising all United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He stressed the need to bundle ICT infrastructure financing in developing economies with a ‘fight-against-poverty’ objective and climate financing initiatives.

Taking the example of EIB-financed project M-Birr, a mobile financial technology in Ethiopia, he explained how providing financial services via simple mobile technology can benefit an exponential number of consumers and service providers. As traditional financing systems often fail to properly function in many developing countries, mobile-enabled technology such as M-Birr has proved to be an effective way to increase financial inclusion.

"What we have seen through our projects is that promoting digitalisation gives opportunities to small entrepreneurs in Africa that they wouldn't have had otherwise. They can be innovative through smartphones. In Ethiopia, M-Birr delivers payment this way. It is quite important in a country where people have more mobiles than bank accounts", said EIB Vice-President Fayolle.

He added: "At the EIB, we are paying great attention to what the obstacles to investment are in Europe. It is finding people with the right skills. We need to look carefully at the impact of technology on skills and privacy out of Europe too."

Kristalina Georgieva said: "Governments can help with the impact of technology on inclusive growth. My message: do the right thing, invest in your people so you can harness the power technology and make a leap forward."

Melinda Gates added: "Technology holds enormous potential to make life better. But we will need to work together to ensure this potential is realised not just for some people in some places, but for everyone. That is why I believe the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development is so important."