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Over 350 million Africans Financially Excluded – Report

Over 350 million people on the African continent are excluded from the financial system, a new report has shown.

Published by AfricaNenda in partnership with Co-Develop, the report was released on Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya.

PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter monitored via Zoom the release of the report from Accra, Ghana, where a journalism fellowship on Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) is ongoing.

Presenting the report, Sabine Mensah, Deputy CEO of Nairobi-based AfricaNenda, a not-for-profit organisation, said the high number of mobile phone users in Africa, a chunk of its people remain outside the financial ecosystem.

The report explains how “Africa has a large financially excluded population” that accounts for the world’s two billion unbanked people.

Tagged, ‘The State of Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems in Africa (SIIPS),’ the 2023 report is an AfricaNenda initiative together with the World Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Challenges

Highlighting the barriers to scaling instant and inclusive payment systems in Africa, the report said poor digital public infrastructure (DPI) and ” fraud and cyber risks” have kept many people out of the financial system.

In Nigeria, for instance, this newspaper reported how rural farmers on the fringes of the country’s capital, Abuja, grapple with poor telephony services, denying them the benefits of digital financial services.

While Ghana and Kenya have made remarkable progress in deepening mobile money banking services, there are only 29 domestic-level instant payment systems on the continent with three coming on board since 2022 SIIPS.

In addition, 17 instant payment systems (IPS) are being developed, while there are seven countries with multiple IPS.

The 17 countries include – Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Angola, and Eswatini.

The rest are Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique and Lesotho.

“Twenty-seven countries in Africa remain without IPS domestic capabilities,” the report disclosed.

Nigeria launched the e-Naira policy in October 2021, but it has not gained widespread adoption.

Benefits

Showcasing India and Brazil’s success stories in the implementation of their Instant Inclusive Payments Systems (IIPS), the report said the platform allows users to executive digital financial services in real time.

“It has revolutionised digital payments in India, enabling seamless fund transfers, bill payments, and merchant transactions.”

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The report highlighted accessibility, reduced dependency on cash, lower transaction costs, instant transactions, and financial services for the unbanked as some of how IIPS contribute to financial inclusion.

Recalling last year’s volume of instant payment systems, the research said, “IPS in Africa facilitated nearly 32 billion transactions valued at approximately $1.2 trillion.”

The volume of mobile money transactions soared from 19.6 per cent in 2021 to 25.8 per cent in 2022.

Between 2018 and 2020, the volume of transactions almost doubled from six to 12 per cent.

On average, IPS transactions recorded a 47 per cent annual increase.

Recommendations

In a brief presentation before the launch of the report, Robert Karanja, senior director (Africa) at Co-Develop, called for the expansion of digital public infrastructure to scale mobile finance services.

DPI enables data exchange, identity verification and financial payments between people within and across borders with no form of discrimination.

Mr Karanja hinted that Co-Develop as a global not-for-profit fund aims at catalysing the adoption of DPI in countries across the globe.

In Africa, the organisation is leading investments and strategic partnerships through private entities to help develop DPI for the delivery of digital public goods in the form of mobile banking services that enable financial inclusion for the unbanked.

“Co-Develop makes investments that accelerate the adoption of DPI at a scale that is inclusive, safe, and equitable,” he said.

Currently, the organisation in conjunction with the Media Foundation for West (MFWA) is training 20 journalists from across West Africa, which aims to drive public discourse and awareness on DPI.

The 20 cohorts of the DPI maiden journalism fellowship are in Accra, Ghana, for a two-week residential peer learning programme.

This report is produced under the DPI Africa Journalism Fellowship Programme of the Media Foundation for West Africa and Co-Develop.

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