Efforts to boost digital financial inclusion in Tanzania and Africa in general have received a shot-in-the-arm following a productive conference organized by FINCA Micro-Finance Bank Tanzania in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
The conference, held in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, which brought experts, institutions and other players in the financial sector, culminated in a pledge by the participants to work more closely in collaboration with governments, telecoms and other financial sector players to come up with innovative and effective means of providing financial services to the base of the pyramid at scale and low cost.
To achieve its objectives, the conference underscored the instrumental role played by collaborative efforts by all sectors through leveraging rapid development in the MNO space, especially mobile money.
Riding on its wide-ranging theme, ‘Driving Financial Inclusion Through Digital Solutions; Implications for Sector Players’- the event, drawing more than 100 participants, provided a most ideal platform to share key lessons and insights learned over the past 5 years through the FINCA - Mastercard Foundation partnership to scale financial services to the unbanked communities in Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.
“Digital technology models are catalysts to financial inclusion and the development of the digital ecosystem is key to increasing access to finance”, said FINCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Issa Ngwegwe, in his opening remarks.
Ngwegwe extolled FINCA’s rigorous efforts in driving financial inclusion through various products and services over the years, including partnerships with mobile network operators in bringing financial services and products to communities particularly in peripheral areas that would otherwise miss out from banking products and opportunities they bring in developing businesses and raising standards of living.
He further continued to explain: “Digital platforms, such as mobile and agency banking are key in reducing the cost of reaching the millions of Tanzanians who are still unbanked. Partnerships with mobile network operators show great potential in scaling financial services more efficiently”.
Speaking on the partnership between FINCA and the Mastercard Foundation, FINCA Canada’s Executive Director, Stephanie Emond said that this partnership had helped FINCA lay a firm foundation for growth through leveraging financial and learning technologies to improve services and build FINCA’s capacity, while also improving its ability to better understand the needs of its clients and the impact that its financial inclusion efforts had on them.
“We hope that through this conference, we can share some of the lessons from our recent journey and foster more collaboration amongst the space to better address market constraints and help create an enabling environment for accessible and responsible financial services”, Stephanie said.
Available statistics show that collaboration by various financial services and telecommunications sector has had positive and impactful result as evidenced by the increase in the usage of financial services throughout Tanzania from 58 per cent in 2013 to 65 per cent in 2017. However, despite these impressive statistics, a lot more needs to be done in order to ensure a more productive inclusion.
Key takeaways from the conference included:
- A call to the government to create an enabling environment for financial access by having supportive laws and regulations.
- Having a collaborative approach among the government, the private sector and civil society organizations.
- Embracing technology that lowers costs and extends services into areas where bank branches may not exist.
- Active efforts to assist the newly included people to take advantage of the services placed at their disposal.
- A call for more collaboration among stakeholders from various sectors and in particular the telecommunication sector to address challenges of access to financial services and share best practices and encourage policies that enable more people to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives.
The chief guest at the event was Dr. Ashatu Kijaji, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning who underscored the government’s commitment to supporting financial inclusion to the poorest and most excluded while also ensuring proper rules and regulations to protect consumers.
Speaking at the event, the Deputy Governor of Bank of Tanzania (BoT), Yamungu Kayandabila said that the Bank had put in place robust regulatory framework and policies aimed at supporting financial inclusion efforts in Tanzania.