New Policies to Promote Digital Financial Services

By Our Reporter

COMESA Business Council (CBC) in partnership with Africa Nenda recently convened a High-Level Public-Private Dialogue under the theme, Towards the COMESA Digital Integrated Common Payment Policy for Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).

The Dialogue brought together over 200 participants from the nine pilot-study countries of the CBC Digital Financial Inclusion Program, to validate and adopt the draft model policy and Rulebook for digital retail payments platform.

Stakeholder groups represented comprised central banks; ministries of finance; ICT regulators; manufacturers; mobile network operators; commercial banks; FinTechs; microfinance institutions; and MSMEs.

Arising from the Dialogue, a raft of recommendations were made on the Draft Model Policy for The Digital Payments Platform for MSMEs in COMESA, and the Draft Guidelines/Rulebook on the Operation of the Digital Payments’ Platform. They included the adoption of the proposed policy measures in the draft policy framework and the Rulebook to guide operation of the digital payment subject to the proposed changes.

Others were to strengthen collaboration between Public and Private sector players, empower women and youth to benefit from digital payment initiative for MSMEs in COMESA region, address the pricing of digital payment aspects related to taxation because it is a critical component in determining access and usage of the digital financial services.

The meeting proposed measures for the reduction of the cost of devices especially end user devices like Smartphones etc. in this regard, there is need to work with Suppliers in the region to ensure that devices are affordable especially for the bottom of the financial pyramid.

In addition, the inclusion of Chambers of Commerce as one of the key stakeholders in the capacity building program for MSMEs on Digital Financial Literacy were recommended as well as the development of tailored made solutions like bundles for MSMEs to facilitate access to Digital Financial Services.

On the way forward, the Dialogue proposed that the CBC embark on the assignment of business modelling on a Regional Digital retail payment platform for MSMEs in COMESA region. Thereafter, to undertake the digital skills capacity building project for MSMEs, to address some of the key challenges affecting digitisation of industries in COMESA-with a keen focus on payments and e-commerce. This will be done in collaboration with Africa Nenda.

Keynote speakers included the Chairperson of the CBC Mr. Marday Venkatasamy, who underscored the importance of digital financial inclusion.

 “Due to the adverse effects that COVID-19 has had in all aspects of our lives, we recognise more than ever, the critical importance of digital financial inclusion to empowering and transforming the lives of all people,” he said.

Others were the Assistant Secretary General-Programmes at COMESA Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget, Governor of Bank of Zambia, Hon. Christopher Mvunga, Deputy CEO of Africa Nenda,  Akinwale Goodluck, Chair of the Africa Business Council, Dr. Amany Asfour, Chairman of the Bankers Association of Zambia, and CEO of Standard Chartered Zambia  Herman Kasekende, and CEO of the CBC  Sandra Uwera.

The meeting noted the importance of supporting women and other particularly vulnerable and marginalized market segments.

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