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JOHANNESBURG/ABIDJAN (Reuters) – When COVID-19 hit Ivory Coast, Bonaventure Kra, who works at an import-export business, began to worry. Handling hard cash all day was a risk. Queuing in crowded bank branches exposed him to infection.

A woman prepares to perform a financial transaction on her mobile phone at a bank of the French mobile operator Orange in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Macline Hien

Then, in the midst of the pandemic, French telecommunications giant Orange ORAN.PA launched an entirely digital bank – its first full banking venture in Africa.

“Going back to cash would be like travelling back in time,” Kra said in the country’s commercial capital, Abidjan. “I intend to use it permanently.”

Africa’s mobile phone operators are ramping up plans to bring banking to millions of Africans, in some cases for the first time, after the coronavirus crisis caused a surge in use of digital financial

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