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Bill Gates Foundation talks digital finance in Uganda

Maggie Kigozi (middle) with the winners

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | People do not need a stock exchange account but instead need an account to save their money safely and be able to make small transactions.

This is what stood out from a speech delivered by Warren Carew, representing Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the recently held Digital Impact Awards in Kampala. The Awards focused on deepening financial inclusion in Uganda.

Carew was a contributor to the success of Kenya’s mobile money platform, M-PESA. He previously worked at Vodafone. He also worked for the Mobile Money Americas Corporation as the Chief Technical Officer.

He said that financial sector players must listen to what the people want and deliver it fast, efficiently, on time and in a reliable way.

“To achieve digital and financial inclusion, we must work together,” he said.

His comments connect with a 2018 report released by Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU) that exposed gaps in financial services access and usage.

The FSDU report says the biggest challenge for financial service providers lies in accessing its largely rural population where 76% of adults live in rural areas.  The report also notes that there is high cost for banks to deliver their services to the rural areas and that there is no incentive for them to do so.

It cites only 7% of rural Ugandans as being ‘banked’, compared to 24% of those residing in urban areas.

“To bring about growth in the banking sector, Uganda will have to find innovative ways of reaching potential consumers in the countryside. Agent banking which was introduced recently in Uganda, and mobile banking are examples of such innovations,” the report reads in part.

Indeed Carew said financial service providers must think of innovations all the time to bring onboard those outside the finance system.

“It [financial Inclusion] starts with access to everyone at every level,” he said, “We need to be able to use financial systems to do anything.”

Maggie Kigozi, a director at Crown Beverages Uganda Limited and former Uganda Investment Authority Executive Director, said as the private sector thinks of innovative ways of financially including everyone, sector regulators like Bank of Uganda must take lead.

“The world is fast transforming and the regulators must adapt,” she said, “Regulators need to be informed and made to understand the latest trends plus issues affecting trade and fin-tech.”

Kigozi applauded the organisers of the awards (HiPipo, Gates Foundation, ModusBox and CrossLake Tech), saying it is through such events that sector players can share resources to deal with financial inclusion challenges.

Meanwhile, some of the award winners included MTN Uganda because of its saving and lending product –MoKash. Stanbic won the digital brand of the year and Airtel won the Best Digital Customer Experience award.


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