A Stronger Voice and Force to Drive Financial Inclusion Priorities in Malawi and Ethiopia

In Malawi, our DFS association is leveraging members’ expertise to analyze policies and regulations. Once completed, we will engage the government to address the identified gaps. We envision ourselves as a leading force in helping to shape the forthcoming Malawi Digital Economy Strategy and building the digital economy,” shared William Kaunda, Chairperson of Malawi’s DFS (Digital Financial Services) Association. 

Ethiopia’s Digital Financial Service Providers Association strategy focuses on strengthening our collaboration with regulatory agencies through our mixers, industry showcase events, dialogues, etc. Through these activities, we aim to contribute to shaping the regulatory environment and provide a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration among stakeholders.” Andualem Hailu, Chairperson of Ethiopia’s DFS Association, explained. 

Looking at the Journey of Malawi and Ethiopia’s Digital Financial Services Associations 

Andualem Hailu and William Kaunda shared these insights during a recent webinar discussing the critical role of DFS associations in driving innovation and inclusion in Africa’s digital economies. With support from UNCDF’s Digital Finance for Resilience (DFS4Resilience)  programme, Ethiopia and Malawi’s DFS associations are working to increase access to financial services and empower underserved communities. This journey began in 2022 when UNCDF and its partners, the European Union (EU) and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), convened ecosystem players in the two countries under working groups. 

The working groups in both countries focused on networking, collaboration, lobbying, advocacy, training and boosting capacity to address the fragmented approaches that hindered efforts in the DFS ecosystem. The goal is to contribute meaningfully to national strategies like the Digital Ethiopia 2025 Strategy and the Malawi Digital Economy Strategy by leveraging best practices and impactful interventions. 

In Malawi, the digital financial revolution began in 2011 with the formation of the Mobile Money Coordinating Group. This evolved into the DFS Coordinating Group in 2018 to encompass all digital financial services. In 2018, efforts to become an association faced obstacles but were revived in 2022 with UNCDF’s support. This led to the formation of the new DFS Working Group to support digital transformation in Malawi 

In May 2022, UNCDF successfully launched a Working Group in Ethiopia after consulting with stakeholders in the ecosystem who were previously working independently towards similar goals. The working group was formalized by bringing together diverse stakeholders in August 2023. Tigist Bezu, Country Manager for Jamii One, was at the formalization event and expressed optimism about the impact on women’s financial inclusion in Ethiopia. 

Launch of Fiji’s Digital and Financial Literacy Survey Report

On 26th July 2023, UNCDF hosted a dissemination workshop on ‘Assessing Digital and Financial Literacy in Fiji: A Survey on Knowledge, Skills and Access’ to share key findings of the survey and engage various stakeholders in exploring ways to use the results to enable informed policy actions and interventions with the goal to strengthen digital and financial literacy in Fiji.

In 2022, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) through its Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP) and Digital Finance for Resilience Programme (DFS4Res) initiatives, conducted a Digital and Financial Literacy Baseline Survey in seven Pacific Island Countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, and Vanuatu to assess the current state of digital and financial literacy within each country. The research explores experiences with traditional and digital financial services to-date, in addition to assessing basic competencies in the areas of digitization and finance. Fiji was the first of the Pacific countries where the survey was rolled out.

Download the one page summary of the findings HERE

Digital and Financial Literacy on Ethiopia

On March 23rd, 2023, The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MInT)-Ethiopia convened key public, private and development stakeholders to deliberate on an upcoming nationwide digital and financial literacy survey in Ethiopia.  The survey is a crucial activity under the four-year Digital Financial Services for Resilience programme which is aimed at deploying digital financial solutions to deepen financial inclusion and help economics recover from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

This nationwide survey aims to measure Ethiopians’ financial and digital literacy levels and how it is utilized in financial matters. The assessment will also help create a score for digital literacy, financial literacy, and digital financial services to identify gaps and develop relevant and innovative digital services, products, and programmes that are tailored and well-suited to the needs of citizens. It will also contribute to the attainment of the government’s plan for digital transformation under the digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy.

Ethiopia’s goal is to ensure that 70% of its citizens are digitally literate and financially included by 2025, and it recognizes digital and financial literacy as crucial to achieving this.

Click here to learn more about this activity

Expanding Ethiopia’s Agent Networks Through Innovative Digital Solutions

Agent networks play a critical role in the uptake of digital financial services. They make financial transactions easier as they improve accessibility and offer convenience. Consequently, agent networks have expanded financial inclusion to underserved and marginalized groups such as women, youth, and rural communities.

More information:  https://www.uncdf.org/article/8061/expanding-ethiopias-agent-networks-through-innovative-digital-solutions-building-on-insights-and-lessons-from-forerunners

Supporting digital transformation in Malawi

The Malawi Digital Economy Strategy clearly states that digital technologies have the possibility to radically transform the economy and if correctly leveraged, will forge new pathways to inclusive growth. However, there are challenges in coordination between and within government departments, private sector and development partners. Lack of coordination and the shortage of technical skills in the country may lead to imperfect distribution in digitization investments and increase the likelihood of failed projects, and further foster inequality.

More information: https://www.uncdf.org/article/8008/how-the-new-dfs-working-group-can-support-digital-transformation-in-malawi

Effective Regulation for Fintech Innovations in the Pacific

As more innovative technologies are introduced to solve key financial services challenges in Pacific and global financial markets, regulators and policymakers must adapt with agile policy responses to harness the benefits.

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) recently supported Sateki Seau and Pateli Vailea from the Reserve Bank of Tonga (RBT), and Fatima dos Reis and Ivonia Pereira Amaral from Banco Central De Timor Leste, to be part of the Cambridge FinTech and Regulatory Innovation Course (CFTRI). The course explores how digitalisation and technology-enabled business models have re-shaped financial services, such as sending, receiving and storing money, globally and have moved from the exclusive domains of banks to non-bank actors and FinTechs.

More information : https://www.uncdf.org/article/8044/effective-regulation-as-a-precursor-for-growth-of-fintech-innovations-in-the-pacific

Accelerating digital financial inclusion across selected Eastern Caribbean Islands.

Since the launch of OACPS-EU the Digital Finance Inclusion programme in February 2022, the UNCDF has worked to provide technical assistance to multiple government agencies across the Eastern Caribbean in the areas of – policy acceleration, training and technical support around financial technology (FinTech) and financial inclusion. David Mogollon, European Union Head of Cooperation to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, stated: “This partnership is launched with the intention to grow the digital economy and reduce financial vulnerability in Trinidad and Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean. It is important to ensure adults have affordable and convenient options to send and receive money when in need, use low-cost digital payment services, and access different forms of finance to increase their financial resilience.”

In 2023, the UNCDF aims to work in close collaboration with government partners and private sector stakeholders to support activities that promote an enabling environment for e-money and FinTech, establish financial inclusion initiatives, and deploy grants to scale-up promising innovations for financial inclusion. The UNCDF’s Regional Digital Finance Specialist for the Eastern Caribbean, Ms. Helen Gradstein, said: “We are encouraged by the commitment of Trinidad and Tobago and Eastern Caribbean policymakers in accelerating digital financial inclusion. Understanding the unique financial needs of individuals is a first step to achieving a financially inclusive society. Recent efforts to establish key initiatives including conducting surveys, establishing Innovation Hubs and working to strengthen payment infrastructures will all be good practices to accelerate financial inclusion across the region.”

New partnership with Zamani Telecom, for the distribution of digital financial services in Niger

On June 30, 2022, UNCDF signed an agreement with Zamani Telecom SA. This partnership will allow the operator to multiply its points of sale in order to make Digital Financial Services (DFS) accessible to 100,000 Nigeriens.

Vast territory with an area of ​​1,266,491 km², the coverage of GSM networks in Niger is concentrated in urban areas. As a result, the use of mobile financial services is unevenly distributed across the country. However, in the unserved localities, the populations wish the development of these inexpensive, secure local services which require less contact.

On this occasion, Alassane Diene, CEO of Zamani Telecom, explained: “Zamani Telecom wants to be a responsible corporate citizen at the service of the entire community. This is why we are constantly looking for solutions likely to facilitate the lives and professional activities of our fellow citizens in order to contribute to the development of society”. UNCDF’s action also aims to contribute to Niger’s economic recovery, especially when the country’s economic growth fell from 3.4% in 2020 to 1.3% in 2021. This new partnership with Zamani Telecom is part of the program “Leveraging digital finance to increase resilience in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries” also called DFS4Resilience.

Niger is the first West African country to benefit from the DFS4Resilience program, which is funded by the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

Family photo of the Zamani expansion launch ceremony on June 30, 2022