A new partnership that will see Smart Africa Alliance, the continental body charged with driving the African digital agenda, work with AfricaNenda, an independent,
African -led organisation created to accelerate the growth of instant and inclusive payment systems, was entered into in Kigali on Wednesday, with the two organisations committing to join forces to drive pan-African digital payment systems.
AfricaNenda and the Smart Africa Alliance (SA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support capacity building for policy and decision makers on digital payments and financial inclusion for the creation of a single digital market in Africa.
The two entities joined forces to carry out strategic interventions around the development and the adoption of open standards for interoperable and inclusive payment systems in line with existing mechanisms on the continent.
The partners will engage in joint advocacy for policy harmonization and host high-level convening events targeting both public and private stakeholders to accelerate financial inclusion across Africa.
According to Dr. Robert Ochola, CEO of AfricaNenda, despite the African continent being a world leader in mobile money transfers, the continent still faces extreme challenges which has limited the push towards complete digitization, citing siloed and disjointed payment infrastructure that only work at a “national level”, as one of the main stumbling blocks.
“We see these challenges as opportunities to show the rest of the world Africa’s ingeniousness in addressing its own challenges. Our MoU underscores a strategic partnership with SmartAfrica geared towards designing open standards that are critical in implementing interoperability on national and regional levels as well creating harmonization in the industry,” Ochora said upon the signing.
“Among other areas of collaboration, this MOU will also be a step towards designing intervention programs for decision-makers, governments on digital payments and institutional engagement. As AfricaNenda, we continue to seek these meaningful collaborations and partnerships to facilitate knowledge-sharing, build digital public goods, and advocate for inclusive payment systems for the benefit of all Africans,” he added.
Dr. Ochora said that if national digital payment platforms can be scaled to regional ones and linked at the continental level, it can usher in a new era of financial inclusion that could even boost the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and ensure that all Africans are financially included and can do business together without any limitations.
“If we are to close the gap of the four hundred million financially excluded adults within our continent, we need to enable universal access to formal financial services. AfricaNenda is committed to accelerating instant and inclusive payments systems across Africa. We understand the significance of partnerships-led initiatives in the scale-up of digital payments,” Dr. Ochora pointed out.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Director General of Smart Africa, Lacina Koné said that mobile telephony today accounts for 50 percent of all access to the internet but challenges of interconnectivity and interoperability remain.
“According to GSMA as of 2020 there was still 50 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa with access to broadband internet 4G, 81 percent had access to 3G and 0.4 percent had access to 5G. Also of the 73 percent increase in remittances in 2020, 69 percent was sent via mobile money, average value of transaction increased by 18 percent from $106 in September 2019 to $124 in June 2020,”
“A growth in the use of digital payments is observed and is powered by mobile money where Africa currently accounts for 60 percent of Global mobile money transactions. Yet there is more work to do for us to achieve the dream of a seamless payments ecosystem across Africa,” Koné said, quoting the report released last year.
Koné said that their partnership with AfricaNenda came at time when digital payments and financial inclusion are more than critical for the socio-economic development of the continent.
“Building and enhancing capacities of Africa’s decision and policy makers on digital payments will contribute to reinforce our vision to create a single digital market in Africa by 2030,” he said.
AfricaNenda is an Africa-led coalition of experts dedicated to accelerating instant and inclusive payment systems across the continent. Through collaboration, AfricaNenda provides public and private sector stakeholders with technical expertise and the capacity to scale up payment systems.
On the other hand, Smart Africa is an alliance of 32 African countries, international organisations and global private sector players tasked with Africa’s digital agenda. The alliance is empowered by a bold and innovative commitment by African Heads of State to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development on the continent and usher Africa into the knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and the use of ICTs.
At the signing event, speakers reiterated the need for governments and regional blocs to work together to ensure that the barriers that stop Africa from becoming a single digital market are removed.