“Reputation is important for obtaining credit,” the credit officer tells Anita, a young entrepreneur, who is looking for a loan to open a tailoring business in Dakar. “It’s for this reason that the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique d’Ouest) started an initiative to promote credit bureaus. The objective is to facilitate access to credit in the eight West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.”
Curious how the credit bureau gets her information, Anita learns that the credit bureau legally collects her credit history information such as the number of credit accounts she has, how she pays her loans and credit cards as well as identifying information about her from banks in all eight countries. All this data helps the bank understands her capacity to repay a loan in case she cannot provide a guaranty or other form of collateral. Anita would need to sign a consent form to allow the bank to request her credit history information from the credit bureau. Excited to hear about how it might help her access a loan, she signs the consent form.
Anita’s story, representative of many entrepreneurs around the world was illustrated in an animation developed by the Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique d’Ouest (BCEAO) in collaboration with the World Bank. It was part of an awareness raising campaign to educate consumers and borrowers in the UEMOA region about the Bureau d’Information de Credit (BIC) and how it would impact their ability to gain access to credit.
The regional credit bureau covering 100 million people in eight UEMOA countries is the cumulative effort of the World Bank Group UEMOA Credit Bureau Project that started in 2012. The Bank Group advised the BCEAO on identifying the best possible credit reporting solution to address the needs of the market, implement a uniform credit reporting law governing all eight-member countries, select a credit reporting service provider and implement a regional solution based on best practices in credit reporting.
While credit bureaus are no new phenomenon, the UEMOA Credit Bureau Project is the first of its kind that provides a legal and operational basis for cross border information sharing across all eight UEMOA countries. Leveraging its experience working in over 60 countries worldwide with a variety of different laws and credit reporting models, the team recommended the implementation of a hub-and-spoke credit reporting model in the UEMOA zone. The hub is based in Côte-d-Ivoire (the hub) with front offices (spokes) in each of the other seven countries. The zone leverages centralized technical infrastructure in the hub country and effectively serves all eight countries.
The implementation of this structure was made possible by the passage of a single harmonized credit reporting law, “Loi Uniforme” that governs all eight countries and allows for credit information to flow between all eight countries. Sovereign nations are generally hesitant to permit sharing of information across borders for a number of reasons. Yet the benefits of permitting credit information to cross borders was too great, especially in a high movement economic and monetary zone such as the UEMOA.
The regional credit bureau, CreditInfo Volo was established in 2015 and started operations in mid-2016. In three years, the bureau collected over 10 million credit contracts representing 5.5 million individuals and firms across all eight countries. The credit bureau now covers 22% of the adult population in Côte d-Ivoire and 13% in Togo, and 7% each in Senegal and Niger, with the other countries in the zone rapidly catching up.
Read more about the success of the UEMOA credit reporting project here.